Accessible distillation of current research on how to build communication skills that can create meaningful personal moments and enrich our lives.
Now that face-to-face interaction has, for the most part, been overtaken by truncated, disembodied communication via email, video, tweets, and other social media, it’s likely that our one-on-one talking skills have gotten a little rusty. Stewart (Bridges Not Walls, 2012), professor emeritus of communications at the University of Dubuque, brings his professional and personal expertise to the problem of making our oral and even texted or Skyped communications as uniquely personal as possible in a world that has grown impersonal (disturbingly so, some might say). In his book, a revised edition that adds a PC-drenched chapter on multicultural communication, Stewart endeavors to show us methods for restoring these skills and even transposing them onto device-driven formats. “The challenge we face in the 21st century is that widespread cultural pressures are pushing us to connect impersonally most of the time,” he says, and this foreshortens our humanity. To redress this transformative trend and restore the natural personal-impersonal balance, we should, he says, within reasonable limits, strive for the personal touch that can unleash humanness. This means conveying our uniqueness, responding mindfully rather than reacting in knee-jerk fashion, showing empathy and respect, and bringing our emotion, spirit, and psyche to our exchanges. Stewart’s book is admirably organized to teach these techniques first, then, in later chapters, show how they can be applied in dating and romance, with family and friends, at work and school, and in spiritual and multicultural settings. There is also a helpful chapter on how to avoid “mis-meetings,” those botched or untimely failed efforts at human connection that vex us all. In these somewhat neutered pages, Stewart does acknowledge that saying or hearing the words “I love you” ranks as the personal moment that matters most, but he doesn’t go far enough in considering the power of Eros and even of our physical appearance in creating these moments. Indeed, using communication strategies to create our most transcendent moments is a little like trying to catch lightning in a bottle.
A useful book for anyone intent on bettering personal communications in the modern era.