by Darrin Schenck

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by Darrin Schenck

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Here is a topic that I feel strongly about, speak about often, and write about as well. Technology has been changing our lives for a long time, but the problems that go along with it are sometimes hard to see right away.
I had the “luxury” of growing up in a time where I was along for the transition of technology becoming so prevalent. As a kid, I talked with girls on the phone in the living room with the long cord attached to it. We walked across the room to change the channel on the TV. We made plans with people to meet somewhere, but if they didn’t show up, we went to a payphone and tried to call them at home. There were no cell phones, WiFi everywhere, and certainly no social media. But what this did do was forced everyone to interact directly with one another all the time. In my opinion, we were better at it back then versus where we are now.
Because of this formative time, I learned to speak to anyone and everyone, largely because it was a necessity. There WAS NO OTHER WAY. This is how relationships were formed and business was done. Nowadays, we rely on technology far too much, and are losing the ability to interact on a human level. Anyone who possesses this skill, I believe, will have a huge advantage in the future. As the new generations leave high school and college and enter the real world, there is less and less of preparedness for interacting in that environment. Just like not learning to lose in sports because “everyone gets a trophy just for showing up” is having a dramatic impact on our youth, using technology as a gap-fill for human interaction will have the same impact. You need to get your butt kicked once in a while at something; it is the only way to build up the resiliency to bounce back from it and start again. If you have never experience this until there is real shit on the line, like your job for example, you are not prepared to survive that. The same goes for interacting with the rest of the world.
The definition of Emotional Intelligence is: the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s). When you hide behind your phone screen and rely on text messages to communicate, you are not honing the skills I am talking about. Being in sales, this skill is critical to my success. Learning to communicate with others is a very subtle art, and a highly underrated skill for most. A lot of people just don’t realize how critical this is to success in many areas of life.
As someone who spends a lot of time on college campuses (both coaching and speaking) I see this trend growing every day. When I make the suggestion of striking up a conversation with a stranger while walking around campus or standing in line at Dutch Bros., I can see people get physically uncomfortable at the thought of it. Lots of college and high school kids text one another WHILE IN THE SAME ROOM.
That’s crazy! But it has become the norm, as it gives you a chance to think about a clever comment or worse yet, send a pre-made meme or gif as a reply. You have reduced your contribution in a conversation to the electronic version of literally copying and pasting someone else’s work. SAD.
When you enter the “real world” after school you are not going to be reporting to people who love the idea of getting text messages from you as a primary means of communication. The expectation in many job roles will be to part of a team, communicating with everyone else to work towards the common goal(s). That bullshit team project you did in college where you ended you doing just the bare minimum and sent to the control-freak person who volunteered to lead the project (aka insure everything got done) made that unrealistically easy. You will get eaten alive –> FIRED –> if this is your approach in the business world. There enough people who are just good enough at the things required of you to make you look like the weak link on the team. The bottom third of the organization is ALWAYS in danger of getting cut loose. Companies are focused on self-preservation, not hand-holding and giving out participation trophies. This means if others clearly outwork you and/or it appears that you cannot be a team player (poor communication skills, always want to work alone, frequently asking for more time, different circumstances, etc.) you’re likely to get cut loose.
The world is full of opportunities for you to practice this (formerly) basic human skill. Just start talking directly to your friends more often. CALL THEM instead of texting, stop by to see them instead of settling for the WhatsApp video call. Don’t just smile at the barista you see every day, say hello. Start some small talk with them. It’s part of their job, they probably are trying to do this with you, and you’re not playing along. Take advantage of this, and practice. Get better at it. INTERACT like we used to not so long ago. Learn to read someone’s emotions and facial expressions so you can tailor the conversation better. Not only will this enhance your understanding and comfort level with that person, but it will have the same effect on them. This rule has not changed, despite our culture: 90% of human communication is non-verbal. Obviously this is lost when using tech to communicate.
If you want to get nerdy about it (like I do) do this 100 question assessment to really learn about where you are and how you stack up to others. It might be the best ten bucks you ever spend. (not a paid endorsement) I wrote an entire talk about my results and how some of the career paths I am apparently suited for I never considered as a possibility. The same may happen for you as well. Also, you may be surprised that you are far more in the normal ranges than you realized. Maybe that would give you a little more confidence in this area? If you test out a little low in certain areas, don’t look at that as a bad thing, but rather something to actively work on now that you are truly aware of it.
THINK OF IT THIS WAY…if you were just a little bit better at this than your peers, think of the advantages that would give you. Whether in a job interview, dating, working in a team environment, etc., you will quickly stand out among the rest. It won’t take much, I promise, as the bar for this is getting lower and lower all the time. If the world is going to be on lockdown due to the COVID19 pandemic, social interaction will feel like a thing of the past. Read, watch videos, learn how to be better at this stuff, and it will take you a long way.
I wish you luck in your endeavors.

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