I saw this public telephone last week and it made me stop in my tracks. I could not remember the last time I saw a telephone like this one on the street, or anywhere else for that matter. I did not think they were still being used. I noticed the large cobweb at the top and realized it may be out there yet no one seems to be using it very often. At least not often enough to disturb the large spider hiding in the web. 

I remember growing up when we would use a phone like this to call my mom after school and let her know we were done with practice and ready to be picked up. I remember carrying a dime, and then a quarter, in my shoe in order to be able to make a phone call if I was in trouble. I also remember when we would use a phone booth on the street to call my dad at his office to see when he was ready for us to pick him up after work. All those interactions with a public phone seem like a world away, when they were a little over thirty years ago. My how times have changed. Now we have apps on our phones and they can do everything from our banking to our taxes, show us movies and do our shopping. Our phones take award winning pictures and allow us to instantaneously communicate with anyone around the globe.  They are so much more than for just talking to people. 

We still have the same communication challenges today as we did when we utilized public phones. We think we are telling people things and they understand, when really we are just talking and no one is really listening. We talk, talk, talk then talk some more when what we really need to be doing is listening. We fill our time with apps and texting, FaceTime conversations in public places and social media updates, and no one is really listening. We spend more hours on our phones than we do with the people we love. We let these devices suck up our time, energy, and money and still feel alone and misunderstood. We do all this to stay connected, and still no one is listening either to themselves or each other. It is as if we have forgotten that good communications is a dialogue not a monologue, which means listening more than we talk. 

No matter the method you use to talk with people – public phones, face to face or smart phones – the challenge is the same, how to communicate your ideas, what you want or need, and how you feel to those who are important in your life. How do you KNOW they were listening and understand? Do you talk more or explain more or use different words? Or do you stop talking and start listening? How much better it is to say what you need then stop telling and start hearing what other people think and understand? It is only when we stop filling the air with words that we have time and bandwidth to understand what other people are communicating. If we don’t listen more than we talk, eventually we become the public telephone booth with big cobwebs that no one utilizes anymore. 

Today your challenge is to talk less and listen more….communicate smarter not just longer. Your phone and the person on the other end will appreciate it.