As part of my Winter Semester course curricula, I am offering an undergraduate refresher course in face-to-face communication.
The course was first available last year under the general heading of Interpersonal Relations, or IR 205.
My university isn’t yet accredited, but we’re working on that.
Courses are for free, so we can’t offer a rebate to students who aren’t happy with the school. Instead, we allow them to take the same course twice – which I think is a lot better than the “two-for-one” Ginzo Knife deals on TV.
Former students have told me the class definitely helped them become better human beings. One of my students remarked: “A friend came up to me and said I was a better human being.”
I think a short course description doesn’t adequately describe its interactive nature. Instead, I’ll present a real-life scenario with the student, showcasing the one-on-one instructional method.
PROFESSOR BAKER: “Joe, first look up at me. Eye contact is important. Now, say ‘Hello, how are you?’”
JOE: “Uh…huh, hullo…are you fine?”
PROFESSOR BAKER: “That’s pretty good. Why are your fingers moving rapidly? Don’t look down.”
JOE: “My Smartphone is signaling. I have a text.”
PROFESSOR BAKER: “Turn it off. Put it away. The iWatch too. Now, try it again…this time with a little feeling.”
JOE: “Uh, how did you go?”
PROFESSOR BAKER: “That’s not even coherent. Pretend like you’re texting, but instead put together a meaningful sentence.”
JOE: “Hashtag, how’s it going dude?”
PROFESSOR BAKER: “You’re not tweeting. You don’t need to say ‘hashtag.’”
JOE: “Okay. “How’s it going, dude?”
PROFESSOR BAKER: “Alright. That wasn’t bad. Now that you have engaged the person and received a reply, say something that will encourage them to talk with you.”
JOE: “Hey man, I got 400 more gigs of RAM on my computer…”
PROFESSOR BAKER: “Don’t talk about yourself. Ask something about them? What are you reaching for?”
JOE: “Sorry, I thought I heard my Smartphone.”
PROFESSOR BAKER: “It’s turned off.”
JOE: “I can hear it even when it’s turned off.”
PROFESSOR BAKER: “That’s impossible. Let’s try this again: “Hello, Joe. How are you?’”
JOE: “I’m hello, are you too?”
PROFESSOR BAKER: “I’ve been traveling. Guess it’s why I haven’t seen you.”
JOE: “I just got 400 more gigs of RAM on my computer…”
PROFESSOR BAKER: “You forgot the eye contact. And what you said has nothing to do with what I said. You don’t just wait for someone to finish talking. You listen and respond to what they say. Didn’t I see you last year in my Listening 104 class?”
JOE: “Huh? I dropped out after the first week.”
PROFESSOR BAKER: Let’s try something else. I’ve arranged a field trip this afternoon so you can observe people engaged in conversations.
3 p.m. at Starbucks:
PROFESSOR BAKER: “Okay, look around. What do you see?”
JOE: “People texting and talking on their phones.”
PROFESSOR BAKER: “Okay, we’ll go somewhere else.”
3:30 p.m. at Olive Garden: “Let’s have some coffee. Look around.”
JOE: “All the customers are texting, except for a kid screaming at his mother about wanting more ice cream.”
PROFESSOR BAKER: “Just wait. Someone will have a verbal interaction with a waitress to pay their bill.”
JOE: “Didn’t you notice? “They have kiosks right one the tables. You can order and pay your bill without talking to a waitress.”
PROFESSOR BAKER: “There’s a person your age at the next table using his smartphone. Get his attention, let him see you put your smartphone in your pocket and see if he follows suit.”
JOE: “This is kind of nuts, but okay.”
PROFESSOR BAKER: “He put his phone in his pocket. Now engage him – say ‘It’s a nice day.’”
JOE: “He’s still talking. He’s got a Bluetooth. Didn’t you see the thing in his ear? Can I check my phone now? It’s been nearly two hours.”
PROFESSOR BAKER: “Alright, go ahead. Who are you texting?”
JOE: “The woman on the other side of the room. Turns out we know each other. Haven’t seen her in at least 15 years!”
PROFESSOR BAKER: “Aren’t you going to go over and say hello?”
JOE: “What for?”
PROFESSOR BAKER: “I give up. Class dismissed.”