Say that again

Published 9:36 pm Friday, August 14, 2009

Last Saturday, our new editor, Tim Reeves, reporter, Lauren Wicks, and myself were engaged in conversation. Just casual stuff. The kind of conversation in which topics like pop culture, Croakies, and the movies we plan to see this weekend come up.

Adding a punctuation of sorts to the conversation, one of us ended the exchange by acknowledging that we were all some of the most non-listening people ever. This comment, capping off a conversation in which we all had to repeat ourselves almost every time we said something, got me thinking.

So, over the past week, I started noticing how many times I have to repeat myself in everyday conversation. Think about it. How often do you have to repeat yourself when you, for example, ask someone where the bathroom is? Or how about saying “Good morning” to that multi-tasker you sit next to at work and being asked in return, “What was that?”

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Or, my absolute favorite: How many times have you been in the drive-thru line and order no more than three items and get back from the attendant, “Could you repeat that first thing, please?”

My point here is that the new age of multi-tasking and having 30 different distractions around at any given moment is ruining our ability to focus.

Perhaps I have made this point before in past columns. I can’t recall, as I am a victim of the very same affliction. But the fact that I have to repeat any of my past brilliant thoughts only further proves my point that people don’t “get it” the first time like they used to.

As I have been noticing this lack of focus in people this week, I read about the less-than-promising AYP results from Suffolk schools and wondered how much today’s students may be suffering from that inability to “get it” the first time.

There are even more distractions now than ever before. And I realize today’s youth are riddled with that inability to “get it” every time I speak with my 12-year-old niece (Love you, Samantha).

I went to Chowan College (now Chowan University) in Murfreesboro, N.C. And I did so, quite frankly, because there is nothing else to do in Murfreesboro but study. (Love you, Murfreesboroans).

It was the lack of other things of interest that sharpened my senses while I was in college, thank goodness. But if college should prepare you for the real world, then my college experience fell very short in the distractions department.

Perhaps there should be a class that trains people to listen. And perhaps we should halt some of the avenues of distraction for a while and learn to focus on the basics again.

Let’s call it Basic Human Interaction 101. One person says something. Then, the other person says something in clear and direct response to what was said previously, and so on.

Let’s try clearing some paths to communication and maybe, just maybe, we’ll start getting it again.

And don’t worry, I’ll repeat this again later for those who didn’t “get it” the first time.