Are you fed up with a “computerized” society that treats you as having no more feelings than a computer? Worse, do you treat loved ones as if their concerns are to be forced into narrow data fields? We don’t, of course, answer a child’s “Mommy?” with “If this is in regard to tonight’s dinner, please say ‘1.’ If it is in regard to a sibling argument, please say ‘2.’” But are you guilty of any of the following habits?
We all know the frustration of calling customer service with a simple question, only to spend several endless minutes tapping buttons to find the correct prerecorded answer. Often guessing wrong, perhaps having to hang up and start the whole process over.
It’s just as inefficient to answer our children before we’re sure what they’re asking—as when one mother replied to, “Where did I come from?” with a detailed explanation of conception and pregnancy, when her son only wanted to know what city he’d been born in. Do you listen to all of what your children say, making sure you understand the question before you start the response?
The only thing worse than answering the wrong question is being “too busy” to even try. How often have you succeeded in reaching an actual human being, only to have them (presumably under the influence of always-do-it-the-same-way computerized systems) say “please hold,” and then hit the “hold” button before you can voice one syllable? Kids don’t like it any better when we say, “In a minute, dear,” the moment their mouths start to open. And for all we know, they could be trying to tell us the garage is on fire.
When your children “interrupt” you, do you pay adequate attention to discern what they want—and whether it might actually be more important than whatever else you were doing?
Another annoyance experienced more often with automaton-influenced humans than literal computers, is when the first thing you hear is “Name?” or “Address?” or “Policy Number?”—when you’d much prefer having your humanity acknowledged with an opening, “Hello, what can I do for you?”
We don’t demand our children’s IDs when they come to ask us questions, but an impatient “What do you want?”—with its implied “Let’s get it out of the way so I can get on with important things”—isn’t much better. When your children want your attention, do you put first things (including their need to feel valued) first?
How often have you keyed your member number into an automated phone system, then been connected with someone who asked you to repeat that same number? Haven’t you wondered why the answerer can’t just get said number directly from the computer?
When we ask children to repeat what they told us five minutes earlier, it sends the message, “You weren’t important enough to rate my full attention the first time.” When your children talk, do you listen—and, when necessary, repeat back what they said for clarification?
Humans of all ages appreciate being treated as humans.
Let’s all do our part to reintroduce personalized attention to our world.