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Is Texting Ruining The Art Of Conversation?

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Experts say there is, of course, nothing wrong with casual conversation and fun between friends. One could argue that the constant banter – scores of texts each day – keep people more connected. The problem, some communication experts say, is that the conversation isn’t particularly deep – and therein lies the problem, says Joseph Grenny, co-author of the book “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High.”

“The core problem has existed since we’ve had telephones – probably since the time of a telegraph,” Grenny says. “We loathe having crucial conversations. We are paralyzed and do what we can to avoid them.”

That applies to any generation, he says. Texting is just the latest way to do that.

Though they may not always be so good at deep conversations themselves, Grenny suggests that parents model the behavior for their children and put down their own mobile devices. He says they also should set limits, as Anna’s mom did when she enforced the “no texting to people under the same roof” rule.

A bit of self-awareness helps, too.

Mary Ann Allison, an assistant professor of media studies at Hofstra University, has her students keep a log of their own communication habits.

“By paying attention to it, they say, `Wow, it’s a really different conversation when you’re talking with someone and listening to them,” Allison says. They key in on body language, facial expressions and tone of voice – all cues that you lose when you can’t see or hear someone, or when you’re distracted, even in person, by a gadget.

Sternberg, at Fordham, asks her students to give up one form of electronic communication to see what kind of difference it makes in their lives.

She also has them practice simple tasks such as standing up in a room full of people and introducing themselves. Many of them hate the drill, she says, but later tell her how useful it was, especially in the workplace.

Interestingly, Anna’s mom, Joanna Schiferl, is more worried about the effect that texting is having on her daughter’s writing skills than her social skills. Anna tends to rush her writing and pays less attention to grammar, or uses abbreviations she’d use in a text. It is a common observation among parents.

So the key, experts say, is to recognize your weak point and work on developing a wide range of communication skills.

“People with a more flexible style, whether they’re communicators in person or through technology, will have an easier time adapting,” Houston says – and will help bridge the communication gap, generational or otherwise.

That’s not always easy in a world where modes of communication are ever-evolving – though young people often adapt with ease.

Houston notes, for instance, that her 13-year-old son is now doing homework with friends via Skype.

And that seems to be a trend. A recent Pew survey found that online video chat is catching on with teens, especially girls. The survey found that 37 percent of Internet users, ages 12 to 17, reported using such applications as Skype, Googletalk or iChat.

Of course, other forms of social networking are still enticing, as Anna’s mom discovered one recent evening when she noticed that her daughter was on Facebook when she was supposed to be doing homework.

What did mom do? She broke her own rule.

“I texted her from downstairs,” mom says, chuckling, “just to bust her.”

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Posted by FanningCommunications on Jul 2nd, 2012 and filed under American Street Guide. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

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