This week I found myself pondering the question “Have we lost the art of conversation?” You see I was faced with a minor HOA conflict that could have been easily resolved with a simple phone call. Instead, I received the dreaded “violation” notice. No questions, no chance to respond, no neighbors being neighbors, just a form letter from a management company.
We received the notice due to a utility trailer in our driveway that Robby used to haul his motorcycle from the mountains. It was hidden from view behind shrubbery, but trailers are not allowed in the driveway, so yes, we were in violation of the covenants.
Here’s the “rub”, the trailer will be moved in two weeks when we return to the mountains. The violation is really a “non-issue”. Robby took the notice quite well. He simply moved it in the garage and “trailer-gate” is finished as far as he is concerned.
I wish I could say that it didn’t bother me, but it did. You see, I personally know two of the HOA members and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t just call me. In fact what bothered me the most is that the letter gave me no opportunity to respond. It was a one sided communication.
What I wanted most was a conversation, an opportunity to express my side and my concerns about “policing” each other as neighbors. It would have been easy to air my offense on social media but again, that’s not a conversation, only a means of communication. So I did the more difficult thing and left it alone.
The next evening I went out to retrieve the recycling can and I ran into my friend on the HOA board. I call that a Divine Appointment! While tempted to jump right into a conversation about the violation, I resisted. She actually brought up the HOA and that was my invitation to spill the beans. I told her what happened and she was both surprised and appalled. She confirmed that if she had known, she would have called me.
And just like that, all was well in my soul again. A simple conversation, face to face between neighbors and friends settled the matter.
Communication vs. Conversation
It seems that in today’s world of social media and all things digital, “conversations” are becoming a thing of the past. Instead, emails, texts, tweets and posts are the preferred form of communication. While these methods do allow replies, they are not conversations.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the convenience and ease of digital communications. They allow for the quick distribution of all kinds of valuable information. They are however, one sided and don’t relay tone and feeling. In addition, they are often used as an easy way to avoid the hard conversations that relationships often require.
On the other hand, a conversation takes place in real time, between two or more people either in person, by phone or even video chat. Conversations allow all sides to be heard and time for responses. Respect and honesty are key ingredients to great conversations.
The over 50 generation is the last to have experienced life without technology. We talked on the phone, made plans in person and had to be accountable face to face when we “messed up”. We didn’t know everyone else’s “business” and last minute plans were usually an epic failure.
While I certainly enjoy the benefits of technology, especially GPS, I fear that people don’t know how to talk to one another anymore. Hiding behind a keyboard is much easier than having the courage to speak your mind in person. Everyone is brave with their opinions when there is no one to challenge your thought processes. And, conflict is a given when civil discourse ceases.
I hope that the art of conversation isn’t forever lost amid the “click clack” of keyboards. Wisdom tells us that conversation is how we connect and build stable relationships with others. It is the means by which we sharpen one another’s ideas and support each other with advice and counsel.
Let’s keep the conversations going and always remember that we are better together when we value community above efficiency.