For many years The Mandt System has referenced a study done by Albert Bandura which states that 17 out of every 20 interactions are negative. Glenn Lathum repeated the study in 2000 and found nearly identical results with 16 of 20 interactions being negative. Each time I present that information in our RCT workshops I’m struck with just how staggering those numbers are. It also makes me think of so many opportunities that we are presented with each day that are not capitalized upon.

I often tell the story of witnessing just such an opportunity. I was on the road and had decided on a restaurant for the evening meal. The restaurant was bustling with patrons and nearly every table was occupied. I was seated near a table where it appeared a father was dining with his two sons – one a teenager and the other a pre-teen. When I sat down I noticed that all three of them were staring at their cell phones. I ordered my meal and then settled back to people watch and my attention was definitely drawn to their table. It was fascinating to me to watch three people sitting around a table but being completely disengaged from one another. Their food arrived and the server placed plates in front of each of them. The three of them began eating, without a word spoken!

The teen finished eating first and pushed his plate away from himself and immediately picked up his cell phone. At one point the adult pointed to the younger boy’s plate; the boy handed his plate to the man; and, the man took some of the food from the plate – all without a single word being spoken! At this point I began to wonder if perhaps they did not use verbal communication…I’ve worked with lots of people who do not speak. However, just a few minutes later the server came to their table and asked if they needed anything else and the man clearly told her “just the check.” So, I was obviously off base about them not speaking!

While waiting for the check all three of them got back on their phones and continued to have their faces turned to electronic screens instead of to one another. They got up from their table and walked toward the door. In all of that time, the only words spoken were when the man asked for the check. I was flabbergasted. Perhaps because I grew up in a family where meal time was the prime time for talking about how our day went. The adults asked us kids about school and the adults told antidotes about their time at work. It was a cherished part of each evening (except when my grandmother was serving asparagus – those nights I hoped to just skip dinner altogether).

My point? I do believe that Bandura and Lathum were spot on about us having more negative than positive interactions, but I am also increasingly alarmed by our LACK of interactions with one another. Let’s turn off the technology, let’s go outside and talk to our neighbors. Let’s take out the ear buds, let’s get to know the other people on the bus. Let’s not accumulate more friends online, let’s spend time with our friends IRL (“in real life”, since I had to recently ask a kid what the heck that meant).

Relationships, folks…in the end those are the things that really matter!

Nikki Wince – Mandt Faculty Supervisor