Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Communications 100

Ready to see more green.

My college son received the highest midterm exam grade, a 98%, out of all three of the communication classes his professor teaches. Considering that my son only made average grades in high school, his doing so well in college, is indeed a pleasure. I've been thinking about communication over the winter, sparked in part by two commercials that have been airing. Both are for cell phone minutes.

In viewing these commercials, I've been struck by the disparity that can sometimes exist in our great country. Many times. there are contradictions in certain beliefs vs. behaviors. I think this disparity can come up during periods of grief and widowhood and end up making difficult situations more so. But for now I will focus on the topic of communication.

Both commercials feature teens. In the first, an adolescent male about age 16 is sitting on the steps of his home talking to his girlfriend. His apparent father is reading the paper in a wing chair at the bottom of the stairs. The son does not realize his dad is there. He and his girlfriend are arguing over who is the better listener. He goes so far as to sing a song he made up for his girlfriend, which in and of itself is hilarious. In a monotone he sings, "Kristen, you are such a good listener." The expression on his father's face if priceless.

Now the second commercial involves another teen couple arguing only this time the girl is telling her boyfriend she is going to give him the silent treatment. This is because her cell phone plan offers enough minutes for her to be able to be on the phone without needing to talk.

Two different commercials and two entirely different views on communication. One advocates the importance of communication and listening, while the other portrays the very real action of people who supposedly care for one another, not speaking as a form of punishment. Whenever I see the silent treatment commercial I want to scream because giving anyone the silent treatment is insulting, immature, nonproductive and hardly a good way of communicating. But we all know people who resort to the silent treatment and we may even have engaged in it ourselves.

Two very divergent ways of looking at communication in our society. I want the teens in the silent treatment commercial to hang out with Kristen and her boyfriend who are at least doing their best to model respectful communication by really listening to each other!

I once read a definition that made an impact with me. It was that the definition of a mature individual as one who can be angry, upset or disappointed with someone but still love them. This would imply that even if we are at odds with a loved one that we have the strength to separate that issue away from our love for them and not end up giving them the silent treatment.

It makes me sad to see the silent treatment being portrayed in a commercial involving teens as an appropriate way of communication. I am also dismayed that so often we end up almost hating our loved ones and certainly treat them in less than kind and loving ways. Why is our society so adversarial? Why is it okay to treat people horribly by being mean, nasty or not even speaking with them?

We all need to listen more, speak less, and offer way less in regard to advice and our personal opinions.


  1. From my experience, men (and women) can view kindness as capitulation or ingratiation toward a more powerful person.

    It sound like these two commercials show the difference between power-based and collaborative relationship.

    My late husband held this power-based point of view, and I did, too, now that I look back. It was the way we were brought up. Frustrating to me, he typically suspected my kindness toward him was manipulative, since his sometimes was. Privately, we had kind hearts, but we feared revealing them.

    Every one of us wants love, and in our attempts to be loved we follow the relationship model we learned as children. Your children demonstrate the kindness they have learned from you. You can be proud you have given them this good base.

  2. I recently read that most Americans have "power-based" marriages, with the keeping score mentality, etc. I know that I do not want this kind of influence in my life in the future and will work to free myself from this mode of thinking in all of my relationships.

    1. This discussion helps me understand that though I may be drawn to the familiar 'power based' relationship, I can and will choose differently. I don't want this kind of influence in my future, either. I'll forgo romance if necessary. Good luck to you in your relationships!