I address candidly the four essential ways that we can reinvigorate our communication in the age of social media: (1) cultivate gratitude in our hearts in order to avoid cynical, critical, impatient discourse, (2) listen empathically and sympathetically with triage for the most important relationships, (3) play together as the context for open, kind, and spontaneous communication, and (4) model for others the kind of communication/relationships that we would wish for ourselves, without hypocrisy. Much of this is from one of my latest book: An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication (click on link to read more at Amazon).

View Quentin Schultze, Founder, Servant Communication's profile on LinkedIn

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Public discourse is particularly unpleasant today. What’s going on? Rather than blame a political party, candidate, system, or ideology, I would like to suggest a new way of looking at our troubling state of affairs.

I taught communication at the college level for four decades. In the last fifteen years I noticed a shift among students and across society. I repeatedly observed a lack of ability to empathize combined with an inability to “switch codes.”

By “empathy” I don’t mean sympathy; I’m referring to the distinctly human (and humane) ability to put one’s self in someone else’s shoes—to see the world from another person’s or group’s perspective.

When people lose their capacity to empathize with others, they don’t properly adjust their communicative code (their verbal and nonverbal language). For instance, if interviewees can’t imagine themselves in the position of a job interviewer, they won’t interview appropriately let alone effectively. They might even offend interviewers.

A friend of mine conducted interviews for an important medical position. One person came to the interview chomping on gum and dressed as if hanging out at home with friends. In recent years I’ve seen the same kind of disconnects at weddings and funerals. Some people don’t seem to know what an interview, wedding, or funeral is all about—the purpose, context, and people involved. What does it  mean to be a gracious guest in such situations? How should one present herself or himself to others? Fewer and fewer people seem to know.

In my view, reduced empathizing and inept code-switching are sweeping the land. We see it even in the confusion about private and public communication. Is any private communication off limits in the public media these days?

Some of my colleagues talk about the “tabloidification” of the media, which surely is one sign of the problem. But I think it’s too easy to blame the media, which reflect as well as shape what’s occurring in society. In my view, the media accept our growing inability to switch communication codes and proceed to worsen the problem. The media are our co-dependents.

In a book I’m writing I refer to this empathy-code problem as the decline of “fittingness.” The best human communication is partly a matter of how we fit our message substance and delivery style with particular people and contexts. What is most fitting for conversation at the dinner table? What about for discussion on national television? In a private versus a public speech? In the bedroom or at church? At a job interview or with a mentor?

I think we’re in real trouble, and I’m not an alarmist. I was at an important fund-raising event recently where people at my table started arguing about politics as if they were at a bar. The substance and style of their discourse were simply inappropriate—not fitting for the occasion.

I wrote previously on this website about the death of RSVP. I suggested that the practice of RSVP is disappearing partly because parents are not teaching it to their children.

In my last few years of full-time college teaching, students frequently failed to show up for scheduled appointments with me. I found myself having to teach my communication majors some of the basics of everyday discourse. They didn’t even seem to be able to switch codes from texting with their friends to interacting with their professor. I did figure out a way around the problem by completely changing how I met with students, which I’ll discuss in a later blog post. (Hint: I dumped traditional office hours and replaced them with something very different and amazingly effective.)

I’m not complaining. I’m trying to understand. Why are so many people failing to be fitting communicators? If I am correct, the growing inability to empathize, along with declining skills in code-switching, are upon us all. We are forming ourselves into people who are quick to speak and slow to listen.

My next two posts will address possible solutions to this problem. Please subscribe to this blog (easy email subscription in left column), tell others about it, and stay tuned. I’ll be sharing more from my forthcoming book as well.

Best wishes.

Q

Print This Page Without Graphics Print This Page Without Graphics View Quentin Schultze, Founder, Servant Communication's profile on LinkedIn

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Taming Our Tongues Video

by Quentin Schultze

I preached at Christ Church of Oak Brook on “The Joy of Taming Our Tongues.”

View Quentin Schultze, Founder, Servant Communication's profile on LinkedIn

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Does God Communicate? Audio

by Quentin Schultze

One of the most enduring questions at least in the history of the western world is whether or not there is a God and, if so, whether God can and does communicate with human beings. In this 30-minute, semi-academic lecture, titled “The God Problem in Communication Studies,” I addressed the issue in the broader context of communication theory as it intersects with theology. Since this was a banquet event, I tried to speak to non-scholars as well as scholars. You might find my presentation interesting and at times provocative. Thanks for giving it a listen.

 

View Quentin Schultze, Founder, Servant Communication's profile on LinkedIn

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

How to Be a Real Listener

by Quentin Schultze

Listening isn’t easy. Listening is messy. Complicated. Counterintuitive. We can’t become good listeners unless we first acknowledge how difficult it is for each of us personally. Novelist Ernest Hemingway puts it squarely: “Most people never listen.” Do you? Listening is not just hearing. It’s not even just about sound. Listening is attending to reality—to the […]

Read more →

7 Signs of Poor Listening

by Quentin Schultze

Seven Signs of Poor Listening 1. Judging others too quickly and harshly 2. Jumping to premature conclusions 3. Responding thoughtlessly 4. Basing opinions of others on first impressions 5. Failing to set aside one’s biases and prejudices 6. Seeing reality solely from one’s own, limited perspective 7. Focusing on self-centered agendas

Read more →

6 Ways to Be a Great Communicator

by Quentin Schultze

1. Encourage—build up others 2. Advocate—speak up for others 3. Listen—care about others’ thoughts and feelings 4. Tell Stories—give others joy and delight 5. Forgive—make things right when you’re wrong 6. Challenge—gently ask appropriate questions to help others understand reality

Read more →

Are You Really a Grateful Communicator?

by Quentin Schultze

Our hearts can hold three basic attitudes toward others: displeasure, indifference, and gratitude.  These shape how we communicate with one another, and especially how others perceive us. Displeased communicators tire us with complaints and criticisms. Their hearts say to others, “You don’t live up to my standards” and “I’m better than you are.” We generally […]

Read more →

What to Say To Someone Who Loses Loved One to Suicide

by Quentin Schultze

This personal story is both heart wrenching and full of hope. When words fail, actions can speak compassionately. Thanks to the author of this article for writing it and publishing it.

Read more →

6 Tips for Great Interpersonal Communication in the Age of Social Media

by Quentin Schultze

This 35-minute presentation is from a speech I gave on my new, co-authored book, An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication: Building Great Relationships with Faith, Skill, and Virtue in the Age of Social Media. For more information about the book, please visit the Amazon page. Thanks. QS  

Read more →

Why RSVP Is Dying

by Quentin Schultze

I hate to admit it to myself after years of denial, but RSVP is nearly dead. Why? I’ve always been an RSVP fan. I appreciate it when someone invites me to an event and provides a way for me to indicate whether or not I expect to attend. When I get an invitation without an RSVP, I’m […]

Read more →

Listening with Childlike Curiosity and Wonder

by Quentin Schultze

A basic principle of servant communication is that listening is the most important communicative skill. Listening is how we become intimate with reality so that when we speak or write we know what we’re talking about and who we’re talking with. But listening is not easy. I believe it’s the hardest communication skill to learn. […]

Read more →

Communicate from Your Heart

by Quentin Schultze

Heart-to-heart communication is the most powerful. Facts and logical arguments have their places in our communication, but they are wooden without the heart of the speaker connecting with the hearts of the audience. We communicate with heart when we touch each other’s basic humanity—the deepest emotions that we all share, such as fear, hope, joy, […]

Read more →

The 2 Basic Problems in Our Communication

by Quentin Schultze

Two very basic, recurrent patterns cause most of our communication breakdowns. First, we emotionally cocoon ourselves. We’re not willing to open up. We’re afraid of what others will think—especially someone in authority, such as a boss, parent, or pastor. So we take the safe route of guarding our deeper feelings. In organizations where there is […]

Read more →

3 Reasons Not to Ask Questions

by Quentin Schultze

Contrary to common sense, asking questions isn’t always the best way to improve mutual understanding in our communication. Here’s why: #1 When we ask a question we set the agenda. We tell the other person what we want to know about and what he or she should speak about. What if the other person wants […]

Read more →

The New Power of a Handwritten Note

by Quentin Schultze

As email and texting are becoming forms of junk mail, handwritten thank-you notes are gaining renewed importance. When I went to a local printer to buy a few hundred personalized note cards, the proprietor told me that he doesn’t get many orders anymore. “People just order a couple dozen online if they need any,” he […]

Read more →

Use Your Body Instead of PowerPoint

by Quentin Schultze

I use PowerPoint, but very selectively. My body is more effective. So is yours. Here’s why. The most potent multimedia technology in the world is the human body, including our voices. We’re wondrously multisensory creatures. No humanly devised communication technology can compete with the body. The next time you’re at restaurant just watch and listen […]

Read more →

Tweets = New Bumper Snickers

by Quentin Schultze

Every medium has precedents. Social media came out of everything from bedroom sleepovers to water-cooler gab and social shopping. What about Twitter? Post-It notes gone public? Maybe. A better possibility is the bumper sticker. Especially the ones that reflect self-expression rather than just group identity. Especially slightly snarky ones—the bumper snickers. You can buy them […]

Read more →

Facebook—The New Front Porch

by Quentin Schultze

Facebook is the new front porch. In the suburbs, mostly unused rear decks have replaced the more neighborly front porches. Along came Facebook for the cyber-suburbs. It’s the new place for gathering, gossiping, and goofing around. It’s become a natural way to find out about friends, relatives, and peers. Used well, Facebook equips us to […]

Read more →

Listening as Hospitality

by Quentin Schultze

When we truly listen to others, we provide places in our minds and hearts for them. This is one of the most important forms of hospitality. Only then can we get to know them. Only then can we empathize and sympathize. Only then can we begin to love them as distinct persons. So listening gets […]

Read more →

Communication Theories Worsen Communication

by Quentin Schultze

Many communication theories are based on the idea of manipulating people. Just take a look at the titles of communication-related books at your local bookstore.  They’re all about how to get what we want from others. Even about verbally abusing people. The result is that we lose trust in one another. Real communication suffers. We […]

Read more →

Cross-Cultural Communication Requires Cultural Roots

by Quentin Schultze

We can’t communicate well across cultures unless we’re rooted in our own culture. Why? Because we need to know who we are before we can know who we aren’t. How ironic!  Today, we naively assume the opposite, namely, that we have to give up our own cultural roots in order to connect with those form […]

Read more →

Kind v. Snarky Tweets

by Quentin Schultze

Who doesn’t enjoy snarky retorts that put deserving folks in their places? They are a mainstay of situation comedies, especially when the stories can’t carry the humor. Snark = snide remark. Twitter has little space for narrative. It’s all about simple, direct expression. Including clever criticism. Lewis Carroll’s fictional “snarks” in his nonsensical poem “The […]

Read more →

Transmission Isn’t Communication

by Quentin Schultze

Sending messages is not the same as communication. Communication requires shared understanding. We live in a storm of mediated messages. Most supposed communication is just noise. Like ads that few people pay attention to. Bruce Springsteen once sung about “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On).” Little did he know how many channels there would be in […]

Read more →

Authors Need Approval

by Quentin Schultze

We writers need approval. Putting our words online or in print opens us up to public criticism. To rejection. So we might want to say what others want to hear in order to gain flattery. Ears get tickled, but truth suffers. Although we’ll still suffer rejection, by speaking the truth kindly, winsomely, we’re more likely […]

Read more →

Mutual Communication v. Careerism

by Quentin Schultze

The Protestant Reformer John Calvin used the term “mutual communication” to refer to mutual service rather than selfish careerism.  “It is not enough when a man can say, ‘Oh, I labor, I have my craft,’ or ‘I have such a trade.’  That is not enough.  But we must see whether it is good and profitable […]

Read more →

Loving Strangers as Neighbors

by Quentin Schultze

SServant communication is all about loving our audience as our neighbor. It doesn’t make any difference how close we are to our audiences. Even strangers merit our goodness and kindness. Everyone we stumble upon is a special person. If nothing else, each person deserves respect. This means being slow to speak and quick to listen […]

Read more →

How to Write a Great Résumé

by Quentin Schultze
Thumbnail image for How to Write a Great Résumé

I have written a book primarily for recent college graduates on how to write great résumés and cover letters: Résumé 101: A Student and Recent Grad Guide to Crafting Resumes and Cover Letters that Land Jobs. Read reviews at Amazon. I have long worked closely with college students and graduates. I know how concerned they are about “looking […]

Read more →

The Audacity of Prophetic Truth

by Quentin Schultze

(Note: This essay is my foreword to a terrific book on media criticism: Robert H. Woods, Jr., and Paul D. Patton, Prophetically Incorrect: A Christian Introduction to Media Criticism (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2010).   The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813–55) had a knack for irritating the state church. He claimed an unusual gift: namely, perceiving […]

Read more →

Ethics in the Information Age

by Quentin Schultze

Michael Lotti interviewed me for this fine article about the need to apply age-old ethics to the new social contexts created by digital communications technologies.  You can find out more online about Mr. Lotti at the publisher’s (Effect Magazine, LarsonAllen) website.  Kudos to LarsonAllen for addressing ethics on behalf of society. Ethics and the Information […]

Read more →