Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Not liking what our society has become



EronsPics/Flickr
By GARY BAUMGARTEN
First a disclaimer. Or an admission. Or an attempt at transparency.
I, too, am guilty of some of the transgressions – maybe all of the transgressions – I’m about to bitch about.
If you’ve been on the receiving end – my sincerest apologies. I can’t promise I won’t do it again. I can only promise to strive to live up to the conduct I’d like to see in others.
Used to be, only doctors were too busy to spend any real time with their patients. So they rushed you in and out. Making snap decisions about your medical needs. Heck, if the doc missed something, you could always come in complaining about a new ailment and get another five or seven minutes (if you’re really lucky) on that.
But that no longer holds true. Doctors are no longer more important than the rest of us.
In almost every work environment, people are being pressed to do more with less time.
It causes them to act in ways that  previous generations would have considered rude. Not today. Today, it’s the norm.
Which is why, I’m not much liking what our society has become.
Just today, I was on the phone with a friend, discussing something important with her. It was a personal matter and she was at work.
Now, while personal means it’s not work related, it also suggests you have a special relationship with the other person that, well, frankly, deserves greater attention maybe even than work.
Again, I’ve acted in the same way as my friend, but in the middle of our talk, just as I was getting to the important point in response to a question she asked, she abruptly ended the call. Because a business call had come in.
OK, I get it. She’s at work. This call is personal. The other one is business. So mine can wait.
But it just didn’t feel right. And I started to think about the many times I’ve done likewise. Cut a call short to take another one. And I started to think about how that might have felt to the person with whom I ‘d been talking.
So I started to think about other examples of inattentiveness on the part of others. All because they have way too much to do.
Like a friend who went in for a scheduled meeting with his boss. He had prepared a week for this meeting because he had something very important to relate.
The entire meeting, the boss typed away on his computer. Leaving my friend feeling that the meeting was an effort in vain.
No doubt his boss thinks he is multi-tasking. But he isn’t. It’s not possible.
What was on the screen was apparently more important to his boss than what he had to say. My friend left frustrated.
Worse yet, it affected his work ethic. He started to not care so much about the job. And, started looking for another job where he might feel more appreciated.
I can relate. I’ve walked into important meetings only to find them interrupted by text messages. I’d pause, politely, in my presentation. “Go on,” the other person would invariably say. “I’m listening.” But is he? Really?
Made me think that if I have something important to tell the guy, next time I’ll wait until he’s in a meeting and text him. Since texting trumps face-to-face interaction I’d get greater attention to my issue in text.
Get where this is going?
People ask folks out on dates in text. They accept or decline in text. They even break up in text.
A buddy of mine just got dumped by his girlfriend. No, not in text. On the phone. At least he could hear her voice and respond. But even so. You can’t even break up in person these days? What does that say about relationships to begin with?
What’s more important in life? Driving safely, or answering a text message?
Making love or answering the phone?
Whatever happened to the art of actually spending time with another person, listening to what they have to say, and showing you’re listening and, here’s a thought – interested?
Today, we are all so busy that we want it all told in 140 characters. And not just on Twitter.
Give me the highlights. That’s all I really need to hear.
By the way, this also means that people make snap judgments based on quick impressions. Without, sometimes, really getting to know the other person or understanding the nuances of the issue. Maybe we’re adapting to all this. Developing into a species that is able to decide on the fly. Like in speed dating. You have three minutes to sell yourself to the other person. She has three minutes to decide whether to take a chance.
It’s like being on a roller coaster that never ends. How do you stop this damn thing anyway?
Maybe it begins with ignoring the beeps on the cell phone demanding that you read and answer the latest text message now. Or ignoring the call coming in and letting it go to voice mail. Picking it up after you’re done with the current call.
All these demands on our time are counterproductive as well. I’ve had well-intentioned colleagues walk in on me while I’m writing. You’re needed in a meeting. I just have a quick question for you. What you’re doing can wait. You can get back to it after you answer me. Like a two or three year old. Demanding immediate attention and instant gratification. And I, meanwhile, lose a very important thought.
Again, I’ve done the same thing. Walked in and interupted someone’s work to force them to deal with me and my issues. Seemed like a good strategy at the time. Now, upon reflection, it seems a bit rude.
I’m not an expert in psychology, interpersonal relations, business or brain function. But I’m willing to bet that if I consulted with those who are, they’d agree.
In fact, I’ve come to this conclusion which could change your life for the better. It’s — hold on – got to get this phone call. I’ll finish that thought later.

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