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Head Coach: Being real is a universal problem

By By Lane Johnson
April 4, 2013 at midnight
Updated April 3, 2013 at 11:04 p.m.


From the Head Coach:

I had an interesting conversation with my son the other day. A lot of things about that conversation made it interesting, but the most intriguing was that it was a real conversation - live, face-to-face, using the spoken word and stringing those words out into a chain of thoughts, ideas and concepts that kept us engaged, with eye contact, for a significant period of time. This required both of us to do something for which we were not specifically trained.

I'm a trained professional in the art of listening. Please don't ask me to say much. I need others to do that. I'm the listener. My son, on the other hand, is a degreed IT guy. While my generation thinks calling someone an IT guy means you believe he is "it," really cool, Mr. Stud, I've been listening over the years and paying enough attention to know that an IT guy is a trained professional in information technology.

My son can communicate in every electronic way possible, using any number of means known in this digital age. Put him most anywhere on the planet, and he can pull something out of his pocket, find a wireless connection and contact someone by any number of means. He also speaks fluent text.

But, ask an IT guy to put away all the equipment and have a verbal conversation in grammatically correct sentences, and you get grimaces suggesting you have asked him to have a rectal exam.

My son, however, seems to be an exception to the rule. He initiated this conversation between us. He had some soulful thoughts and wanted to know what mine were. I'm the one who grimaced. Fortunately, I was able to put the vision of rectal exams out of my head and engaged in an interesting conversation.

He was telling me how he attempted to draw his friends into a philosophical discussion. Now, his friends were scattered across geography. No one was in the same room. The conversation was digital. Although, it wasn't really a "conversation" because no one was responding.

My son made several comments about his thoughts, ideas and concepts concerning life, existentialism and all that cool philosophical stuff. He couldn't get a single response.

Finally, in frustration he quickly pounded out several random hits on his keyboard and sent it. It looked something like "jdnsf96jdmc." Immediately, his electronic devise lit up with rapid responses from several friends: "I understand exactly what you're saying!" "I'm with you there, dude!" "You put words in my mouth." And they just kept coming.

I listened intently as my son shared his concerns about having more and more trouble finding people who are willing to have soulful conversations. Only when he speaks utter nonsense are his friends willing to engage. He was concerned that he has chosen a profession whose technology and equipment is "dummying" us down.

It occurred to me as he was sharing this frustration that his experience was not limited to just his generation and technology. I could think of my own experiences over the years.

Take away the technology, and there is still a problem. How many times have I attempted meaningful conversations only to receive a menagerie of spits, farts or burps? It isn't the younger generation or the modern technology that dumbs us down.

All modernization has done is to provide us a different medium by which to avoid each other. Even attempts by each generation to blame the other for either "not keeping up" or "going too far" is nothing more than another way to keep our distance and avoid real conversation.

My son and I connected in a real way that day. Though we have different paradigms through which we live and function, we shared a common need to stay connected soulfully. We agreed to help each other avoid hiding behind nonsense and have real conversations from time to time.

The next evening I shared this with my wife. She said, "That's good. We need to talk."

My response? "zlt#?wQ!"

Lane Johnson, M.Div., LPC, is a licensed counselor. He welcomes your comments. You can contact him by email at lane@StrategicConnectionGroup.com.

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