• Patrick McAndrew

Why Communication Is Key

I spent this past weekend down in Sarasota, Florida for my good friend’s Bachelor Party (beautiful place…check it out!)  Good times were had and we all had an enjoyable time chatting and hanging out together while giving the groom-to-be a hard time.

When I arrived at the airport and after going through the long security line, I walked past the typical little book shop that helps assist people pass the time as they wait for their flight.  Near the front of the store, I stumbled upon a book by Alan Alda called If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face.  This is quite a name and it intrigued me enough to pick up the book and see what it was all about.

Alan Alda, an actor, writer, and director known for his role in the hit series M.A.S.H.,has spent his more recent days on the science of communicating.  His book is about discovering better ways in which we can communicate and better relate to one another.  His methods draw from improvisation, theater, and storytelling techniques as well as scientific research.  He uses these methods to build empathy and to improve our relationships.  Although I didn’t purchase the book there (though I was very tempted), its on my “Books to Buy” list and I plan on diving into Alda’s concepts very soon.

Alda is speaking much the same language as myself and the rest of us here on The Low Tech Trek.  In an age of hyperawareness to technology and less awareness to each other, Alda’s emphasis on the importance of communication cannot come at a better time.  When we are on our devices, a lot of information gets lost as we aren’t giving our conversation partner our full attention.  I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to this.  I do try to be as present as possible when someone is talking to me, but if I am distracted, especially by technology, I will usually miss 90% of what the person is trying to communicate to me.  I have also been on the other side (as I’m sure many of you have) when you are talking to someone and you can tell that they are barely listening.  There have even been times that I have stopped talking mid-conversation when talking to someone and the person I was talking to didn’t even notice!  That’s pretty sad.

While Alda focuses more on working specifically with scientists to develop their communication skills, his methods are very universal no matter what industry or relationship we are discussing.  Building empathy comes from connecting, relating, and understanding.  In order to do that, we must be fully focused and present when in a conversation with someone.  We must listen attentively to the way they are speaking.  We must observe facial expressions and body language.  We must notice visual and aural cues.  If we do this, we can better understand where our conversation buddy is coming from.

We can’t do this, however, if we prioritize technology over our fellow human beings.  The groom-to-be at the bachelor party echoed a few times to others on their phones, “Be here now!”  I was proud of him. Because of this, I was able to relate and connect with those attending who I did not know as well.  These things seem so little and insignificant in the moment, but, if the habit is engrained, those moments add up.  If we allow ourselves the time to connect, relate, and stumble in the beginning, it opens the door to empathize and understand in the end.  Imagine if everyone took the small amount of time it takes to do this.  We would certainly have a lot less problems in the world.

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