It seems like at least once a week that I have a conversation with a student about a problem he or she is facing either at Curry College, where I head up the Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR-related courses, or at Regis College, where I teach graduate Communications courses, in which I wind up asking a student, “Did you ask?”
To which the response usually is, “Well, no, not yet.”
I’m reminded of a very old Bill Cosby skit about the conversation between the Lord and Noah about building an ark.
The segment that always sticks in my mind is toward the end, after the Lord has told Noah how many cubits in length, width and height to make the ark, where Noah pauses and asks… “Lord…what’s a cubit?”
Simple question, but absolutely critical if anything is going to be accomplished according to the Lord’s instructions.
Now unless I’m seriously mistaken, most of us don’t have one-on-one conversations with the Supreme Being. But we do, or will, have occasion to talk with teachers, advisors, supervisors, and the like.
The idea, if this is to be a successful interchange, is for a dialogue to take place, not a monologue as is so often the case.
You need to ask questions. You need to offer opinions. You need to show that you are capable of holding your own in interactions with other human beings.
This seems particularly important in light of a recent series of pieces in the Kalamazoo (MI) Gazette written by three high school students entitled “Has social networking led to a decline in social skills?”
The bottom line, according to these three young people, is that too much of a good thing can be bad for you; self-control is the key.
We’re comfortable chatting with our friends on Facebook and elsewhere, but when it comes to a real in-person dialogue with someone who we don’t know well, I’ve seen clams being more vocal.
I’m by nature a card-carrying introvert, and I’ve known myself long enough to know what I would prefer to do…hole up in my den at home or my office at school with a book, shunning any and all human contact.
I’ve also worked in the public relations profession long enough to know that that is totally unacceptable. Gotta show your face, Kirk. See and be seen. Talk and be talked to.
It’s a struggle, but I’ve kind of gotten used to the butterflies (this has been going on so long some of them have gotten married and have children!) in my stomach when I step into a room filled with people, many of whom I don’t know or just barely know.
You can and should do the same. If you’re living on campus, don’t eat in your dorm room every day; go to the cafeteria and mingle. Or drop in on one of your professors for a chat. If you’ve graduated and are more-or-less on your own, get out to the local coffee shop or diner. Be with people.
As you do this more and more, you’ll find that you’re more comfortable interacting with people who you don’t know. And you’ll find that you’re more at ease in conversations that don’t relate either to (a) tomorrow morning’s homework assignment or (b) the project that’s due on the client’s desk two days from now.
In time, you will find yourself, without hesitation, asking questions about things that you don’t understand or would like to know more about.
And you’ll be comfortable in the knowledge that you’re not asking because you’re not smart enough…you’re asking because you want to learn…you want to understand…you want to do the very best that you can and, to do that, you have to ask the question… “Lord, what’s a cubit?”
“It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.” – James Thurber