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GannettUSA Today

Friday, September 22, 2006

Overcoming impersonality

A victim of our technological world, with all its instant communication, is face-to-face - or even ear-to-ear - contact. We'd rather send a message to a work colleague or an e-mail at work or at home than actually talk to the person. We seem to be afraid of human contact. Is a frazzled look or furrowed brow so frightening? Is a beaming face so offputting? Sometimes our message - most of the time, we're asking the person to do something - would be delivered and received differently if we could actually see the person first.

A colleague told me of a school program that addresses this fear of contact. In grades K-3, the teacher facilitates a program for the youngsters before the teaching day begins. They shake hands, they say hello and they tell their classmates what's on their minds. In grades 4-6, the students do the greeting and all the talking for 15-18 minutes, with the teacher in the background.

That sounds like a great idea to adopt in any school or workplace. If you feel good about something, share it; if you're down, talk it out and look for the bright side. Eye contact can go a long way. So can a handshake or even a hug. A computer terminal can't match that.

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