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?