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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Shopping for Truth: Communication 101

Published: February 29, 2008
Section: Opinions

Sometimes I think colleges should offer free courses in how to communicate with other human beings. These classes would be offered to all of humanity basically, because we’re all in pretty bad shape if you ask me. I would name the classes Communication 101.

Why not? We have courses in sociology to teach us the study of society and human beings, so why not a practical experiential learning class to teach functioning as a human being?

I’m generally a pretty optimistic person, but some days I ask myself what is wrong with the world. Let’s take shopping for example. Now we all know I’m an avid shopper, and so this is generally a positive experience for me. The only thing standing between me and a successful shopping trip (besides being at the whim of the prices of the items I’m purchasing!) is other shoppers.

We’re past the holiday shopping season, so why are people so rude? Seriously, don’t approach the clearance aisles these days after any holiday, even trivial ones like Valentine’s Day. People push, people shove, and some people think that bringing their giant shopping carriage down the aisle will give them a better chance at finding that deal. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to steal your deals people!

You would think that people were all starving and fighting for food! I just don’t understand how people are so rude to other people, in public especially. Don’t people teach their children manners anymore? I was taught to say excuse me if I accidentally bumped into someone in public and to be polite. And somehow, I don’t think this is really a big thing to ask of people.

So how do we deal with other people? Well, I honestly wish there were a formula on how to understand what in the world other people are thinking when they do some of the stupid things they do. But there isn’t, so I guess the best thing we can do is to talk to each other. I know, foreign concept, right? And we should set an example through our own actions on how we want to be treated. So if someone bumps into you, don’t freak out at them.

A few weeks ago I was at a grocery store and this man rammed into me so he could get a free pastry! Come on man, is it that important for you to get your free food that you blatantly ignore and push through me? If it were a mistake, I would have been totally understanding, because, as an extremely clumsy person, I understand bumping into things (especially if I’m not wearing glasses for distance!). My gut reaction to this, as I learned in childhood, is to apologize if it’s my fault. And I usually do it anyway even if it wasn’t as an automatic reaction. But not this time. This guy glared at me like I shot him or something, when it was HIS fault! All I could do was walk away and stew over my frustration that afternoon.

While this is one small anecdote, and you’re probably all thinking I’m crazy, I think it says something about the state of humanity. If getting free food is more important than care and respect for our fellow human beings, then we have a big problem on our hands.

And let’s take something as simple as common courtesy regarding returning voicemails, text messages, and emails. Why some people ignore these or take their dear sweet time responding simply baffles me. This is a conversation I’ve had with my closest friends over and over again. We’ve come to the conclusion that you should expect nothing from people and then you might be pleasantly surprised. Not to sound pessimistic, but the average person is a bit clueless when it comes to other people’s feelings and how they affect others.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always been really organized, maybe it’s because I expect too much, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask to put yourself into other peoples’ shoes to understand what they’re going through.

Thank God for those people we’re completely compatible with. We all mesh with and understand a select number of individuals who are like us, but sadly, the overwhelming majority just clash with each other personality-wise. As such is the case, we need to learn to co-exist with other human beings.

I’m not saying returning a voicemail in a timely fashion or saying sorry if you bump into someone in public will bring about world peace, but it’ll at least foster mutual respect and understanding among us all. And if anything, it’ll satisfy this very frustrated columnist!