The Rev. Randy Dolllins: Failure to communicate

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"What we've got here is : failure to communicate."

These words, uttered by the prison warden in the classic film "Cool Hand Luke" have become a familiar part of American pop culture lingo.

Most people would agree that breakdown in communication is at the root of many of our mistakes and dilemmas. Thus, proper communication should not be taken for granted.

I remember the first phone call I had with a friend I made in Mexico after living/studying there for six weeks.

It was my first phone call in Spanish and it was awful; the communication was poor.

Only two weeks before, I carried on an hour-long conversation with this person at a coffee shop, yet the phone call was a strained 10-minute dialogue.

The problem we encountered was a lack of physicality. People communicate in three ways: what they say (words), how they say it (tone) and their body language (physicality).

Researchers can argue about what percentage each plays in conveying a message.

All I want to say is that when any of these is handicapped or cut off, our ability to communicate decreases. Hence, as a novice Spanish speaker, I found it hard to have a phone conversation because I couldn't read any body language and, because of the subpar line quality, my ability to interpret tone was diminished.

One the most popular forms of communication today is the text message.

It is convenient and easy, while at the same time it can be a nuisance and dangerous. With a new lexicon of abbreviations, the text message has, more than all our other forms of communication, the best chance of being misunderstood and thus, can lead to failure in communication. I admit that I am still new to the text craze, but last month I sent/received 75, which pales in comparison to the some 6,000 texts that many teenagers process every month.

Here is an illustration: A friend texts me about a new DVD and would like to know if I want to watch it. I'm excited about the purchase and I text back, "No Way!"

While I am checking my schedule to see if I have time to watch it, I receive back a text stating, "I will ask someone else." My "No Way!" was meant to be an exclamation of partial disbelief, but my friend understood it as a rejection.

So, what is the big deal?

Texts are great tools for confirming dates and times and communicating simple straightforward facts, but they are horrible at conveying tone.

It is important that, as we seek to love those around us, we be careful. A text message that says, "I'm sorry," is not an appropriate apology; especially when the stakes are big.

Further, a series of texts does not make up a conversation. If you need to discuss something, have the patience and respect to call them or meet with them. There is no substitute for authentic personal communication.

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