I’m sure you have all experienced email overload. Probably every day. Statistics tells us that in 2014 the average number of emails we receive each day is 85 of which 10 are spam. This figure is expected to rise to 97 by 2018.
When does anyone have any time to get anything done? And what interests me is, what kind of stress is that putting us all under and how are we changing as a result?
Over the last five years, I have noticed a marked increase in irritability, aggression and rudeness from people working in businesses. Only last week, a person in a Denver Printing company hung up on me when I quietly disagreed with something she had said. There was no opportunity to discuss – the minute I didn’t accept her assertion I was cut off. I know many other people who have similar experiences. What has happened to us that we no longer use the basic skills of human discourse? Human discourse, which allows for disagreement, discussion, debate, persuasion and perhaps simply ‘agreeing to disagree’ in a polite and professional manner. Nothing is taken personally. Just good communication, exploring why two people have differing views. It seems, at least in America, the minute a person disagrees with another there are two possible outcomes. Either the communication is terminated abruptly, or a yelling session ensues. There’s no middle ground. Unfortunately, neither option provides a learning opportunity for either person.
I realize what a large topic this is and that I am only touching the surface. I raise ideas for you to ponder.
A friend told me the other day that a College Orientation Class told his son and others what not to say in order to avoid upsetting people. Surely that is encouraging dishonesty? It seems we have reversed what effective communication is. Instead of being able to say what one thinks in the interest of honesty we must use a rather substantial filter that actively prevents us from being honest – in the interest of not upsetting someone. This is the reverse of what communication used to be. Each person used to be free to speak. Now it is the listener who dictates what we can say. And all this in a country that believes in ‘free speech’! The First Amendment to the United States Constitution codifies the freedom of speech as a constitutional right. Yet we are most definitely slowly eroding our right to exercise this.
Why are we not encouraging those who are easily upset to learn some anger management or irritation management? It’s interesting that the overly sensitive are dictating how we all communicate or should I say how we don’t communicate. Don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not for eliminating respect and good manners. In fact, I suggest that the absence of good manners has, in part, caused the problem. But it’s gone too far. We are now completely in the hands of the overly sensitive.
Returning to what I referred to at the beginning of this blog, perhaps dealing with these 85 emails every day are stressing us out to the point that we are no longer calm enough to conduct a fruitful discussion with others anyway?
Another related trend appears to be either not answering emails or, not fully answering questions asked by the other person in their email. It seems people are so overloaded that the only option they have is to ignore and simply not answer…even when it’s an important issue and even when you have specifically asked for receipt confirmation. It doesn’t take much time to hit reply, type in “received” and hit send.
So we can’t win. Technology has us permanently stressed and we’ve become scared to say anything in case it upsets someone.
So what has all this got to do with public speaking? Actually – more than you might think. An excellent public speaker is firstly an excellent communicator. He or she is able to substantiate their point of view and persuade convincingly. An excellent public speaker is able to offer both sides of a topic to an audience in the debate tradition. An excellent public speaker does not take a challenge from the audience personally – he or she enjoys the exchange and sees it as a way of expanding knowledge. An excellent public speaker is not threatened by an aggressive challenge by a member of an audience – he or she understands the person in the audience may be genuinely irritated or frustrated about the topic – the speaker’s job is to listen effectively to the challenge and turn it into a productive exchange. An excellent public speaker is not worried about upsetting people in the audience although insulting the audience is certainly not what an excellent public speaker does. If a public speaker worried about hurting feelings in an audience he or she would never say anything!
Is this where we are headed? What a constipated society we will have if that turns out to be the case! And what of progress if we are no longer allowed or able to disagree and debate?