Denise M. Blommel 2014-07-26 00:34:21
A Hard World Requires Soft Skills What we've got here is [a] failure to communicate. - Captain in “Cool Hand Luke” The other day I was at a diner and noticed four young people lounging at the back, animated sounds emitting from their booth. Each was speaking but not to each other. A couple at an adjacent table was lost in their text messages. Two television screens above them blared sporting events, competing with nondescript background pop tunes. The TV in the front featured talking heads yelling about the latest crisis. In the midst of the siren call of ever improving technology, 21st century Americans are starving for face-to-face communication. Above the noise, there is a genuine need for conversation and dialogue as well as discussion. While modern usage casts dialogue as two people talking, the ancient Greeks used the words dialogos to signify meaning moving through. The word conversation is from the Latin conversare, meaning to turn together. Discussion is from the same Latin root as percussion and concussion and means to break ideas apart. Hearing is passive; listening demands effort. When you and I are talking, I cannot impose closed captions on you or rewind and replay what you just said. However, I can paraphrase and summarize, so that you know you have been heard. The ancient Chinese character for listening contains four symbols: the ear for hearing, the eye for perceiving, the heart for feeling and the king for respecting. To surmount the ambient noise, active listening requires all four elements. Text messages and emails convey about 3 percent of a message. Some 50 percent of meaning comes from tone of voice. We perceive the balance through gesturing hands, shifting feet, eye movements and facial grimaces and smiles. Communication is more than sound bites or tweets. We also struggle to bury conflict, which is innate in the human condition, in the hum. Soap operas, mysteries and telenovelas portray handsome men and gorgeous women in phony tragedies. Sitcoms and late night shows celebrate human frailties. Avatars and superheroes blast exotic and elaborate weapons in movies and videogames. And the underlying drumbeat of unresolved conflict continues. The death of men, women and children has become commonplace on each evening news channel – whether in a foreign land or here at home. Social media posts destroy reputations in an instant. Workplace violence and bullying are on the rise. Children in school, teenagers in a theater and ordinary folks attending a town hall die from gun blasts. Wars rage in Africa and the Middle East. Civil discourse is not an antidote, but a beginning. Perhaps more dialogue and less texting. Perhaps more conversation and less arguing. A change in perspective to “both/and” instead of “either/or.” Resolving conflict through negotiation instead of power plays or walk aways. It’s a hard world out there. Time to use some soft skills. Denise M. Blommel is a solo private practice attorney in Scottsdale. She represents employers and employees in employment and labor matters. Denise is first vice chair of Girl Scouts – Arizona Cactus-Pine Council. She is a member of the State Bar of Arizona, Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce, Scottsdale Bar Association and the Arizona Employment Lawyers Association. Denise is a frequent presenter for government, business, educational and community groups. Denise and her husband, Don Doerres, train groups in basic communication and conflict resolution through their Soft Skills for a Hard World program. For more information, visit www.azlaborlaw.com or call (480) 425-7272. Her mailing address is 7150 E. Camelback, Suite 415, Scottsdale, AZ 85251. Her email address is email@example.com.
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