The dying art of Southern communication
Even after so many years, I still haven't learned the art of effective communication.
Times have changed and, like it or not, the New Age forms of communication are calling the shots.
Problems arise whenever I telephone business establishments. Considering the fact that I live in the South and considering the current business climate, I'm caught in the crosshairs many times, especially if I get a “non-southern ways” person from, let's say, “Ohi-ya.”
Immediately after my party answers the phone, my southern-bred heart wants to go beyond the usual “hello” . . . waaaaay yonder beyond such brevity and downright pithiness.
My southern-bred heart wants to begin with a cheery, “Good morning! How are you this morning?” But with the no-nonsense business atmosphere in many places these days, the most you'll get is an irritated-sounding, “Fine.” It's as if they really want to say, “State your business! Quit wasting my time! What do you want! Snap to!”
Cheerfulness is not cool. Conciseness and being to the point is hot.
Same thing's true when you meet folks on the streets. Even in the South, we are, more and more, getting to the point where we avoid eye contact and any semblance of a greeting. If you are as presumptuous as Southerners tend to be and greet a stranger you pass on the street, more than likely, you'll get a cold stare instead of a returned greeting.
A cold stare that says, “What's your problem? You some kind o' pervert? Mind your own business!”
A true Southerner, even in 2011, maintains his southern ways though.
Not only does he feel compelled to inquire about his party's well-being in a telephone conversation – or any conversation for that matter – but he has a deep-seated yearning to not only bond, but to cement that bond with certain niceties . . . niceties like:
• “Let me tell you how to make really good biscuits.”
• “Where's you're favorite fishin' hole?”
• “Are you from around these parts?”
• “Do you happen to know So-and-So who lives down there by the river?”
The southern-New Age clash is even more intense in the world of e-mail, Facebook and all the other computer-oriented venues.
For one thing, there's no such thing as being long-winded in modern technology. Southerners like to “go on,” but e-mail dictates a brevity that desecrates a once-beautiful language.
If you want to email Aunt Sally about grandpa's illness, you communicate the potential saga in 30 words or less written in cryptic symbols that are virtually indecipherable to anyone older than 21.
What could become a literary classic in the telling all about grandpa's illness in Southerners' grand and flowery style is reduced to two of three lines of text that is often paled and shoved to the side by junk emails that implore recipients to forward the contents to 10 friends if they love Mom and apple pie.
“How are you doing today?” we Southerners query.
“Did you get any snow last week?”
“Did I tell you about my new granddaughter?”
“You're confusing me with someone who cares.”
Brevity! Brevity! Brevity!
The watchwords of modern communication.
State you business! Quit wasting my time! What do you want! Snap to!”