Communication Is The Key to Cultivating Social Change

Communication Is The Key To Cultivating Social Change

Dr. Yea-Wen Chen at San Diego State University offers her priceless, profound insight

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"Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don't listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don't listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what's behind the words. "--Roy T Bennett

After a brief interview with my professor Dr. Yea-Wen Chen, an Associate Professor of Intercultural Communication at San Diego State University, I was left feeling inspired and encouraged about the general state of the world. In a society that holds so many predetermined expectations, the secret to moving forward is not expecting an immediate reward from your struggle. We talked about how the youth of America is facing a diminishing capacity to inspire the changes we want to see in the world. We pondered how to define this disconnect between beliefs translating to action. Perhaps the youth's increased technology poses new threats to communication and social hierarchy? Or maybe an increasing distrust in our political leaders? We pondering several causes, but all of them ultimately led to the same question:

How will we communicate differences for social change?

Dr. Chen and I danced around this question and came to a conclusion: the answer to this is a variety of actions, none of which are completely concrete.

First, we can introduce the idea of education. We trust the idea of higher education to teach us how to heighten our communication skills, but is this the correct expectation to have given that 85% of the jobs we are training for have not even been created yet? Dr. Chen poses a qualified affirmation to this question, agreeing that focusing on the technology and logistics of the education is the wrong way to go about it. With so many advancements being made, there will always be more to learn. The key is to focus on the things that won't adapt, the factors that make us innately human. Qualities like empathy, curiosity, and the ability to internalize and process important information are what we need to truly address the fairly uncomfortable issues of our generation such as mass shootings or global warming.

Touching back on expectations, Dr. Chen references that when people or situations meet our standards or expectations we are not fulfilled, but rather only when these expectations are exceeded do we begin to feel satisfaction. Pulling inspiration from black feminist Bell Hooks, Dr. Chen is inspired by the idea that we must see/identify the other in ourselves, as well as ourselves in the other, for effective communication.

Without actively practicing empathetic thought, there is no way that communication between people can be effective. With increased diversity and globalization, new problems arise all the time. If we can allow ourselves to feel deep connection that reveals our truly human links, it will help us deal with the divide of "us and them" that historically hasn't been completely distinguished.

In a society where listening is subordinate to using our voice, Americans need to learn to take a step back sometimes. By thinking to ourselves," why do I need to understand that?", or "what is the true importance of this issue?" we can cultivate a real conversation about the future. "It all comes down to personal experience", says Dr. Chen. And after all, life is too short to live it all ourselves, so sharing experiences can make all the difference.

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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The College Experience

A series telling the true experiences of modern day college students.

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Everyone tells you to prepare for the best years of your life.

They tell you to prepare for all of the new challenges and new opportunities.

They say that you will meet your future people in college.

What they don't tell you is how much it will hurt.

Seeing old friends disappear because you are no longer home.

Watching your grades fall because the class is too difficult to pass.

Hearing and witnessing your family struggle and you aren't able to be with them.

Seeing all of the adventures that others are going on while you are stuck in your dorm room with the same stack of papers you have been trying to finish for three days now.

They don't tell you how difficult the transition will be.

They especially don't tell you how hard it is to live with someone.

The best of friends can live together and then grow to hate each other.

Complete strangers will move in and never speak.

You'll find friends that are simply just your "writing friend" or "band friend".

Many of the labels from high school can sometimes stick around.

If you're not out drinking or clubbing, then people think you don't have a life.

College is great, but don't think that it will be easy.

You have to make things easy in order for things to happen.

You can't just go around doing whatever and expect things to work out.

It takes time and it takes commitment to succeed in life, and in college.

The best way to deal with it all, find someone!

Find someone that you can get coffee with and watch sports with.

Find someone to eat dinner and lunch with.

Find someone to study religion and math before the next test.

Find someone!

Find your someone, a friend or someone special, to help you make it through everything that life throws at you.

If I had that someone I might have been better off my first year.

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