With special guest William M. Timpson, Ph.D.
Technology enables us to learn and connect with each other in ways I never imagined as I worked toward a degree in the leading edge field of computer science “back in the day”. At that time computers were often used for complex computations, a long distance phone call was expensive, and writing letters was time consuming and provided a very slow Return on Investment. Fast forward to 2017. Almost every day I am taken aback by the wide variety of options we have to communicate instantly with almost everyone we know and even some we don't know. Facebook and other forms of social media enable us to easily keep in touch and share the most exciting (and mundane) aspects of our lives with relatives and friends that are near and far; some we may not have seen face-to-face for decades and some who may live on the other side of the world. Twitter lets us receive seemingly unfiltered messages from so many, including the President of the United States. And a plethora of news channels enable us to filter perspectives so that we can customize our impressions of world events and the attitudes of others. Most of the time I think that this is great and that it enriches our lives and improves our relationships. But sometimes it seems overwhelming, my view of the world and current events becomes skewed and distorted, and/or I am left with a feeling that “everyone” else has a life fueled by a steady stream of euphoria and joy while I’m sitting at home doing laundry … again. That can be a Tech Frustration.
Recently, my husband, 21-year-old son, and I watched a video about Millennials in the Workplace. It sparked a great discussion, and let’s just say that the Baby Boomer parents and Millennial son didn’t see eye-to-eye on all of the opinions shared. It was a lively conversation. And it got me thinking about relationships and how they can be enhanced or hurt because of the existence of social media, our attitudes about it, and our determination to use it carefully or treat it casually and/or carelessly.
Through some Restorative Justice volunteer work, I met an interesting and inspirational guy named Dr. William Timpson. Dr. Timpson is a professor in the School of Education at Colorado State University, and he has a fascinating background that includes work in Northern Ireland, South Africa, South Korea, and Burundi. Dr. Timpson and the Restorative Justice program have taught me a lot about listening and conflict resolution. Recently I asked Dr. Timpson how he thinks technology and social media are impacting our ability to strengthen relationships and resolve conflicts. Drawing from his 2002 book, Teaching and Learning Peace (Madison, WI: Atwood), here is some of what he told me.
Dr. Timpson: We all know that good communication can be pivotal in defusing a volatile confrontation. It helps lower emotions and defenses so everyone can obtain better understanding and define peaceful resolution alternatives. This information draws on Tom Gordon’s (1974) Teacher Effectiveness Training to describe three sets of skills that provide an effective model for establishing good communication: 1) Deep Listening, 2) Empathetic Expressing, and 3) Consensus.
Covey, S. (1989) The seven habits of highly effective people, New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
Gordon, T. (1974) Teacher effectiveness training. New York, NY: Peter H. Whyden.
Solnit, R. (1994) Savage dreams: A journey into the landscape wars of the American West. New York, NY: Vintage.
Timpson, W. (2002) Teaching and Learning Peace, Madison, WI: Atwood.
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