Communication… Two Good Things About Yesterday.

I was thinking the other day that there are things we just don’t do anymore.  Take elocution lessons for example.

When I was seven years old in England, elocution was actually part of our school curriculum.  Of course that might have been because most of us in the class had a dreadful habit of dropping our “haiches” and committing other such crimes against the English language.  But the point is that in school, someone in his or her wisdom decided that we should learn to speak so that we could also be understood.

Enter Miss Frost, a woman whose demeanour befitted her name, small, grey and wizened with the ability to freeze one to the core with one look.  Miss Frost had us all standing at attention on many an occasion repeating after her,“How now, Brown Cow”, shaping our little mouths, like baby birds, as roundly as we could so the sounds would come out to her satisfaction.

I suspect that we did not, for the most part, satisfy Miss Frost, as her temper never seemed to improve and nor did our penchant for “haiche” dropping.  Nonetheless, I did come to know that words, when pronounced with care, tend to convey a clearer meaning than when we allow them to carelessly careen off the end of our tongues and get hopelessly enmeshed in jargon, saliva and each other.

And then there is Penmanship.  There was a time when the only source of written communication was pen and paper.  In school we learned how to shape our letters and write in straight lines and when we received gifts from relatives and friends at Christmas and other important occasions, it was obligatory to sit down and write carefully crafted notes of thanks. When one is small, it is a painful exercise but it taught us the importance of acknowledgement and that maintaining good relationships with others relied on making an effort to be appreciative and gracious.

Now, it is much easier to sit at a computer and send e-mails, or text, or tweet. In fact, the number of ways that we can communicate with each other without putting pen to paper is now amazingly diverse. I approve wholeheartedly of anything that helps us keep our relationships alive.  After all, the current pace of life rarely allows the opportunity to sit down and write letters any more.  On the other hand, I can’t help but think that something has been lost, something that speaks to the art of communication.

Last week, Wally Bock wrote a post called Once Upon a Time. In it, he talks about the changes that have taken place over the years  in not only the way we do things but also in the tools available to us to do them.

Initially having lived through the times he described,  I thought there was not much that I really missed about them.   But, on further reflection,  I’m thinking that the ability to speak clearly and add a personal touch to our gratitude by actually writing a legible note of appreciation now and then are leadership tools that continue to have great value.

What do you think?

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10 Comments

Filed under communication, Leadership Values

10 responses to “Communication… Two Good Things About Yesterday.

  1. Ginny

    I think your post was great! I also agree with you in that the personal touch of writing a legible note has definitely been replaced by the computer/texting. Having raised my four children to sit down and write a nice note of thanks was old fashioned to them, but to this day, after leaving a family get together, I will always receive a text from my oldest daughter saying “thanks mom for a great day” for me, that works! However, in the business world it does make me crazy to read an email full of misspelled words and poor grammar. Thanks for always leaving me thinking!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Ginny,

      Thank you for sharing your story!

      I agree too, that professional/business communication when written poorly, makes an equally poor impression. And, unfortunately it tends to cause the reader to make assumptions about other things that may not have any bearing on the writer’s many other abilities.

      Thanks for coming by! 🙂

  2. I’m with you Gwyn on the thank you notes. I actually enjoy writing them. It gives me time to reflect on how deeply I value people in my life who take the time to care, to invite us for a weekend, a dinner, a special event. I also suggest to my business clients that they take the time to write and actually snail mail a hand-written thank you note for someone who goes above and beyond. Imagine my surprise when one of them turned around and sent one to me. One of the posts I had the most fun writing is a Recipe for Gratitude Cake, followed by cutting and giving a slice to people who reached out in a way that touched me. I hope others will copy cat and enjoy giving and receiving cake.

    Thanks for another thoughtful and well written post.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Thank you Anne,

      I love the image of the Gratitude Cake! It puts me in mind of something that tastes sweet, goes down well and is never fattening! And, of course, it’s always better when shared.

  3. Wonderful post, Gwyn! It sounds to me like your Miss Frost was actually my third grade teacher, Mrs. McKinley (The Great Gray Lady), but in a different body.

    It was not Mrs. McKinley, but my mother who made thank-you notes a part of my life. On Christmas, for example, after we had opened our gifts, but before we were allowed to play with them, we made the March to the Dining Room Table to write our thank-you notes. My mother and father did their notes at the same time.

    Every day of her adult life, my mother wrote three thank-you notes. I try hard to match that example.

  4. Gwyn Teatro

    Thanks Wally,

    I expect that we each have a teacher somewhere in our dim and distant past who is “memorable”. I remember Miss Frost particularly because she hit me over the head with a book once for not paying attention…haven’t been the same since 🙂

    Many of us tend to view gratitude as a noun requiring no action but it is clear that your mother knew better. By making it her custom to write thank you notes every day, she successfully converted the word to a verb…something to admire and to emulate.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Gwyn – great thoughts! As a person of a “certain age” I am grateful for having been drilled in traditional skills, but for me the art of communication comes in many forms – especially today. Even though I am something of a dinosaur, I also happily embrace the newer technolgies! In certain cases I wonder if it is just as effective.

    The last time I sent an old style thank you card from Belgium to England, it took 5 days to arrive and cost Euros 3.50 for the card, plus postage, plus elapsed time to process it all ( driving to the post office and lining up almost interminably).

    I feel sure that an etiquette will emerge to cover the occasions when a trad response is appropriate and when email and Facebook and other updates are acceptable. No condolence messages by text perhaps. Then you have to factor in environmental concerns with paper usage!

    I think the issue is that all generations should have the skills to operate in every arena. As a shining example my Mum (86) Queen of the Thank You Card, who actually cross stitches her own cards – is on Facebook!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Dorothy,

      You make a great case for education in communication skills that go beyond the traditional. Your Mum is a fine example of this.

      And, you are of course quite right that in the case of saying “thank you” to someone who lives further afield, the traditional methods are expensive (on a number of levels) not to mention cumbersome. So, perhaps a good dose of common sense and using all of the tools available to us will do the trick. Gratitude can be expressed in many ways and if done sincerely, does not have to feel artless.

      I wonder what Miss Manners would have to say about it.

      Thanks for sharing your usual astute observations. I’ve never actually *seen* a cross-stitched card. Now that *is* art 🙂

  6. elliotross

    Understand? Let me count the ways!

    It seems that I cannot listen to a voice message that is not; “Call Bob at <> 6-mumble-32-mumble-mumble-mumble-25

    If we cannot give 7 or 10 numerals in language that others can understand…..

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Elliot

      Well, I’m laughing!

      I also relate well to the dilemma as more and more of us become seeming experts in “mumble-ese”

      Thanks for coming by…and for the giggle 🙂

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