I have always been fascinated by man’s story as an animal. It is some time now since I read Zoology at Newcastle and I have not really done anything with the knowledge but the interest has remained with me ever since. I have often pondered on how much of what we do is driven by our biological and genetic self rather than the people that we think we have become. How much of our action is instinctive and how much guided by the society we find ourselves in?
It was on the back of such questions that I opened the fascinating book, ‘The world until yesterday’ by Jared Diamond. It tells of how human societies have operated for thousands of years based upon evidence from studies of populations where there has been no interaction with our highly technical lives. I hesitate to use the word modern as all societies are modern, just as all animals have evolved. All societies are changing constantly to meet the circumstances and environments in which they live.
I find inspiration to write from things I come across, snippets of conversation I hear and things I read. I will get at least a couple of blogs out of Diamond’s book.
The first is around the human need to converse. Verbal communication would seem to be on the wane, as the written media offer us so much information that we can absorb by reading.
Diamond writes, ‘Ever since my first trip to New guinea I have been impressed by how much more time New Guineans spend talking to each other than do we Americans and Europeans. They keep up a running commentary on what is happening now, what happened this morning and yesterday, who ate what and when, who urinated when and where, and minute details of who said what about whom or did what to whom.
To these societies reading or looking at a screen are not options and the only way that information is passed on is through speech. This is the way that humans have interacted with each other, cemented relationships and increased collective knowledge for millennia, yet these days our societies see this as somehow obsolete. We write reports, we blog, we give presentations and we have organised and controlled our way out of the oldest and most effective means of communication – a conversation.
For much of our lives our information is received in download. The rise of social media is at least an opportunity to interact and the rise of video as the dominant vehicle for getting messages across shows how important the human voice still is.
In our working lives we are missing a trick. Rather than have formal meetings to pass on information and develop ideas we should learn from our more remote cousins and focus on spoken interaction.
We will learn so much more by chatting.