“Whether we’re talking about mobile etiquette technology or not, etiquette is, at its very core, about considerate interaction with others, whether you know them or not. And yet 88 percent of respondents to the recent Intel study on the topic of mobile etiquette believe that people rarely take others into consideration when using their mobile devices in public.” — Emily Post’s Etiquette Daily, February 25, 2011
“As human beings, our only real method of connection is through authentic communication. Studies show that only 7 percent of communication is based on the written or verbal word. A whopping 93 percent is based on nonverbal body language. Indeed, it’s only when we can hear a tone of voice or look into someone’s eyes that we’re able to know when ‘I’m fine’ doesn’t mean they’re fine at all ... or when ‘I’m in’ doesn’t mean they’re bought in at all.” — Forbes, April 30, 2012
It has become obvious that with the proliferation of cell phones, email, the Internet and advanced communications technology that people are becoming more and more disconnected from each other. Civility, respect and genuine face-to-face connections are being lost so much so that Hollywood has made a movie about it. Disconnect depicts the Internet as a sinister gateway that has fundamentally changed the way we communicate or connect with those we love.
In an April interview with The Daily Beast, Alexander Skarsgard, one of the stars of Disconnect, said that “the Internet is very convenient because to really stop and go deeper takes more of an effort. You forget to deeply connect with people you’re physically with because you’re online being distracted, making plans for the future, or whatever else you do online.”
Picture four teens seated at a diner, all focused on texting instead of each other. See a family in the living room at grandma’s house, focused silently on their phones, playing games, texting and Googling while their elderly family member sits gazing forlornly out the window. We’ve all seen it. And it screams, “The people I’m not with are more important than those sitting next to me!”
Arianna Huffington wrote in an op-ed piece about the movie that “Disconnect shows how easy it is to allow technology to lure us into a somnambulist life, gradually being pulled away from a sense of who we are and what really matters.”
She further writes, “It's easy to get seduced by technology. As Henry-Alex Rubin (Disconnect’s director) said, ‘many people use the Internet as medication, to dull pain and disappointments. One thing leads to another and, before you know it, you're missing your own life.’ Before the screening, Marc Jacobs, another of the film’s stars, told me that he'd banished all technology from his bedroom and has a low tolerance for it at dinners. ‘You have friends over for dinner, and they're on their BlackBerrys and iPhones all the time, and you think, 'Why are you even here?'" And in fact, it was the sight of people around the dinner table emailing and texting that inspired Andrew Stern to write Disconnect in the first place.
“Awash in technology, anyone can hide behind the text, the e-mail, the Facebook post or the tweet, projecting any image they want and creating an illusion of their choosing,” states a Forbes article. “They can be whoever they want to be. And without the ability to receive nonverbal cues, their audiences are none the wiser.” So with all the connective technologies at our disposal, we unfortunately are more disconnected than ever before!
This is prevalent in not just our social lives but in the workplace. Electronic communications has virtually replaced face-to-face communication. This has been led by the speed and geographic dispersion of business and the preference among the Gen Y and Millennials, which will comprise more than 50 percent of our workforce by 2020. They prefer texting or other social media than actually talking with someone in person. These two trends alone affect business relationships, collaboration, trust and employee engagement and loyalty.
Because business communication is now done by emails, text, intranets, Web sites, blogs and other technology-supported media, without body language, the potential for miscommunication is growing. People in a hurry do not take time to consider the nuances of their writing. For instance, when someone conveys a curt tone, what is the message? If someone writes in all capital letters, does that mean that person is yelling? Does a one-word response mean “I don’t want to talk to you”? What does a smiley face mean? Can I make a decision based on that?
How John Daly and the Key Class Are Reconnecting Us
John Daly recognized this vast disconnect three years ago. He knew that for young people to get jobs or make it into college and for disenfranchised workers to make it back into the workforce, teaching them social and business etiquette skills was the key. Thus the name of his organization, the The Key Class.
The course, which instructs on how to look someone in the eye, shake hands, greet and carry on a conversation also focuses on that all-important body language to convey a positive first impression. People are learning how to dress for success, eat a meal with the proper manners sans a cell phone, how to win and then successfully interview for college entrance and jobs and keep them. But, it’s more than that. The course is providing the confidence and the will to do so. Daly, who has touched hundreds and hundreds of students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, through Teen Court and unemployed workers is showing them that yes, they can!
It’s not complicated. The simple tools he provides are easy to learn. But, it’s Daly’s outlook, demeanor and passion that make the difference in these people’s lives. Former student Richard Palafox described it better than anyone.
"I hope your etiquette teaching rubs off on to my soul," he said. "In return for your passionate willingness for us to succeed in the job world, I will be successful."
Daly is taking it one step further these days. He has gathered his collected writings on behalf of his teachings. The Key Class – The Keys to Job Search Success will soon be out in bookstores and online at outlets like Amazon.com. Watch for it.
Click here for more information about The Key Class.
— Maria Long represents The Key Class.