I couldn’t help but smile when I saw that the first smartphone is to go on display at London’s Science Museum in October. At 20 years of age, the IBM Simon will be part of a permanent exhibition on the history of communication.
Half the size of a house brick, the phone weighed the same as half a bag of sugar and held a charge for only an hour.
And even 20 years ago, it cost $899!
I remember buying three mobile phones in the mid ‘90s to issue to Housing Officers as safety devices when they were out and about. The joke was, at least they could hit someone with them!
Our lost communication skills
It’s ironic, really, that we’ve spent so much time and energy developing the ultimate artificial communication device that we’ve lost focus on the most efficient natural one there is – us. After all, your average teenager, smartphone permanently attached to his palm, earphones plugged in, might be simultaneously checking his bank account, texting his mate and updating his Facebook status, but what he isn’t doing is communicating face to face, in any meaningful way. As we become more locked into our own private worlds, we lose the ability to communicate and more importantly, to understand the communications of others.
How we communicate
A human being’s communication skills are incredibly complex, and it’s thought that only around 7% of them are verbal. Of the verbal communication, tone, pitch and inflection are more important than the actual words used, and will often reveal the true sense of the message. Try stressing each of the words in the sentence “How did you get here today?” to get six subtly different sentences.
Below the tip of the iceberg is a whole mass of complex interactions around body language, facial expression, posture and eye movements. Many of these are unconscious, and tell us a lot about how a person is feeling.
You can sit with a coffee and watch the world go by and really see your fellow human beings communicate. When you can’t hear the words people say, its easier to see who’s relaxed with others, who’s uncomfortable and even who’s lying. (Studies report that people maintain a higher than usual level of eye contact when not telling the truth – to seem more trustworthy – and touch their faces more than usual, sometimes almost covering their mouths).
Bridging the great divide
You can tell how well people know each other – or would like to know each other! As you watch, you will see those who are comfortable with each other slip into rapport – lifting their cup at the same time, crossing their ankles the same way. The gestures say “I am like you, I understand you” – and yet it’s all done completely unconsciously.
Let’s hope we’ll still be sitting in coffee shops in 20 years time really communicating with each other – I don’t fancy sitting at a table for one with a charger for my electronic device so I can have a gossip with my best friend!
Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” Paul J Meyer
Blog written by Rebecca Welch