It's not often that I start out with a disclaimer, but here it is: This is not an argument for or against gun control. If you choose to comment about that, as always, keep your comments respectful.
Since the advent of texting and instant messaging, there's a lot of what I call, 'micro-communication.' It's so short now people aren't even spelling out words. Just by itself, this abbreviated communication gets us into a lot of trouble.
Conflict happens because of the lack of communication, not the presence of it. And even with the telephone, face-to-face, and email communication, there were gaps in communication.
The challenge with gaps is that our mind fills them in. It fills them in so quickly and subconsciously, in fact, that we aren't even aware that assumptions have been made. And because of that, we don't verify assumptions. Those gaps, filled with unverified assumptions, expand during micro-communication.
The assumptions may be exponential though, in comparison with the increase in the gaps. That's because with micro-communication, the message is so short, the context is stripped away, taking clues for interpretation with it. So, even more assumptions are made.
But it's not just a matter of the gap expanding; the tone and speed are amplified as well. The tone is amplified because people tend to be more blunt when talking through text and messaging. It's like there's no filter. And because it's real time and in short blasts, it's happening faster than ever before. And then the sender wants an immediate response, but what they get may end up being a reaction instead.
Adding more fuel to the fire is the fact that there is little consideration for the audience when texting. When we talk on the phone or face-to-face, we are more aware of the impact a statement has and how it's being received. Then, we can adjust accordingly. We may also know where the person is and what their emotional state is. That's not true with texting and messaging; they're just blasted out whenever something occurs to the sender with no regard for the reader.
So, we have less communication, more assumptions, amplified tone, faster speed, and bad timing. That's a perfect storm for emotional escalation. And some of the most likely to communicate by text (teens) are also vulnerable emotionally. And, like most of us, they don't know how to process it constructively and safely.
In the absence of a better option, guns are being used to settle conflicts. They are the knee-jerk reaction. But we have communication options that allow us to respond to conflict, not react. Even if the person who would use the gun wouldn't use communication, others interacting with that person might. This could prevent some violence.
Is it time to bring communication skills to schools? Without those skills, the only way students know to handle their differences is what they've seen. That used to be fist fights or yelling in the hallway, but judging from some recent events, it seems even that has escalated now.
The bottom line? We live in a world where guns are more accessible for some troubled people than good communication skills are. We must turn that around. If gun control is objectionable for some, then we need to at least increase the availability of good communication skills. And, really, that's not a bad idea with or without the guns.
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