It’s time for the annual ritual of making promises to ourselves about what we will change in the coming year. In that spirit, consider six resolutions that would make us better partners in a wide range of communication settings.
Resolve to be a better listener.
Becoming an engaged listener is like losing weight: it’s harder than it sounds. It requires momentarily giving ourselves over to what another is saying. That must include minimizing other distractions, turning off the far too loquacious chatterbox camped out in our brains, and accepting the challenge of bringing our full attention to another. We can’t do this with everyone all the time. Listening for nuance is work. Start with the people that matter most.
Protect your soul by deciding to be a more thoughtful gatekeeper.
We allow a lot of worthless messages into our lives: junk journalism, junk advertising, aimless web-browsing, mean-spirited trolls and the self-obsessed. As tech writer Farhad Manjoo recently noted in the New York Times, the Internet is “loud, shrill, reflexive and ugly.” It “now seems to be on constant boil.” So it takes far more personal discipline to keep this stuff at bay and to hold on to our social equilibrium.
Work to put a reasonable limit on the time your children spend with all kinds of screens.
Virtual reality is a desert compared to the natural world. Rediscover local parks or just the simple pleasures of a walk around the block. Remember that even young children are naturally weatherized. Most love to be out and active in the cold.
Resolve to save important feelings and information for face to face discussion.
Proximity with others usually brings out the best in us. Media that act as surrogates for ourselves (even “social” media) offer only selected approximations of the real deal.
Listen to more music.
Because it’s almost exclusively the language of feeling, music unites us in ways that ordinary rhetoric can’t.
With the possible exception of those strange relatives up in Duluth, resist dividing the world into “us” and “them.”
Human complexities always trump simple binaries. Even after this brutal presidential election we need the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that simple fact.