“There’s no question that the smartphone is the most important communication technology of this century,” said communications expert Quentin Schultze.
But because of this “growingly addictive, portable, handheld, omnipresent device,” we are losing the fundamentals of communication, he added.
“Listening is the most important communication skill that we’re losing. There is so much technology and so little listening happening. All of communication is becoming like texting and tweeting.”
Schultze, Calvin communication arts and sciences professor emeritus, and coauthor Diane Badzinski address that concern and others in their short new book, An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication (Baker Academic, 2015), part of Schultze’s final sabbatical project.
“There is very little written on social media and families from a Christian, scholarly perspective,” said Schultze. “In writing this book, we wanted to provide a Christian perspective on these three problems: We are becoming media rich and communication poor, people are forgetting the basics of good communication, and social media are a challenge for parents and grandparents.”
The book addresses communication basics like showing gratitude, listening attentively, relating openly and restoring peace. “Instead of criticizing social media, we wanted to start by reclaiming the basics,” he said. “We aimed to brings readers into the conversation of how to go about using the gift of communication to build richer, shalom-filled relationships with God, others and ourselves.
“Parents who nag their children about social media actually worsen parent-child relationships,” Schultze said. “Research shows that adolescents desire a deeper relationship with their parents, but a lot of parents don’t have the time, inclination or skill—especially fathers.”
Schultze and Badzinski offer practical advice on how to make family meals a fun time for conversation, how to entice kids into relationships where they can laugh, cry and worship together, where the family can tell stories together.
The book includes numerous useful lists such as “Seven Ways to Listen Well,” “Six Ways to Affirm Others” and “Nine Ways Not to Confront People.”
The authors also encourage parents and grandparents to learn to connect with their children and grandchildren through new media.
“I think it’s a critical time as the next generation begins their marriages and child-raising to think about the whole communication context that they are creating for their children,” said Schultze. “We’ve dealt with these same problems before, and we can address them positively now.
“Interpersonal communication is a wonderful gift to be nurtured, celebrated and enjoyed. That’s the positive message; then we fit technology into that,” he said. “We’re created to be relational people. Let’s reclaim the basic skills needed to develop such relationships.”