We don’t talk anymore

  • Published
  • By Dennis Lange, Inspector General
  • 88th Air Base Wing

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- It seems that every day the communication choices we make at home and in the workplace are becoming more relevant than at any time before.

English singer Cliff Richards wrote a song titled, “We Don’t Talk Anymore.” I found the title and lyrics so fitting and obvious in today’s world.

Not surprisingly, technology has had a huge impact on everything we touch, say or do.  However, having the benefit of age, I can appreciate the advantages as well as the sacrifices that accompany progress.

During my life and serving many years in the Air Force, I can recognize how far we have come in a very short time because of technology.  Working in telecommunications back in the 60s, we communicated via teletype, handheld radios and telephone.  We did not have credit cards and used cash or wrote a check to buy everything.

In the mid-70s, I worked a telephone switchboard at Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Michigan.  If you wanted to call someone on base, you had to go through me, two plugs, to reach your base extension. If you had a problem, you got in your car and went to the person or agency for assistance. If you wanted something signed, you hand-carried the document to the person for signature. There was a face or a voice attached to conducting business.

Today if you want to communicate with someone, you send a text message even if you are at the dinner table. If you want something signed, you send the document electronically for signature. If you are hungry or need groceries, you have them delivered. Certainly this may often be the simplest and most efficient way to accomplish the task, but what have we sacrificed along the way?

As the 88th Air Base Wing director of complaints and inquiries, some of the most frequent complaints I receive are that no one listens, no one answers or no one seems to care. Within the organization, I notice an increase in complaints involving a lack of interpersonal communication, compassion and respect.

I often emphasize at various Inspector General briefings and meeting with commanders the importance of treating each other with dignity, honor and respect.  The same applies when issuing praise as well as counsel. I am convinced that if we practice these base tenants, we can enhance morale, improve productivity in the workplace and reduce the number of complaints.

This brings me back to the intent of this article: face-to-face communication, eye-to-eye contact, being real, listening and demonstrating respect, understanding and compassion for one another are necessary and valuable.

May I suggest the next time you are enjoying a family dinner or participating in a business meeting or a casual setting with others that you take the time to set the iPhone down and consider Cliff Richards’ lyric, “We don’t talk anymore.”