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Let’s translate the rainbow

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The way we interact has changed. Even communication has changed. Conversation protocols are different and, it seems, unique to each person

There was a rhyme we learned very early in our school career. Back then I suspected that it was intended to condition us to be mindless minions, and these days it looks as if I was right all along.

Our teacher would stand in front of the class and make us repeat the verse line after line, over and over again, until we had no choice but to remember it. I even remember it today, centuries after my pet brontosaurus died.

“Please, thank you and excuse me are the nicest words to say, to Mommy and to Daddy for what they do each day. Please, may I have a glass of milk? Thank you then I’ll say. And then, excuse me, Mother dear, I want to go and play.”

It seems back then there were protocols for how we spoke to each other. I had no choice but to learn those protocols well. It was drummed into our heads, we were indoctrinated. So please, don’t be offended if people greet you, ask politely, say thank you maybe they are just victims of the indoctrination of their childhood.

These days I see many children still being taught manners by their parents. I feel so sorry for them. One almost gets the impression that they are learning a redundant skill. Will they even need their manners in a few years’ time?

The way we interact has changed. Even communication has changed. Conversation protocols are different and, it seems, unique to each person.

For example, I get incredibly irritated when someone sends me a text message that simply says: “Hello”. That’s it. There’s no follow up. Just ‘hello’.

Only when you respond does the person continue, saying: “how r * ?”. So you tell them that you are fine and enquire about their health.

They very rarely answer you, but they do follow up with: “wud” (what are you doing?). And once they have established that you are fine and not too busy will they get to what’s on their mind. I do not have the patience for this.

I have even considered creating a standard meme: “Hello, I am well. I am not too busy at the moment. What’s on your mind?” Just to cut through all the protocols but I worry that even that may be considered rude.

Perhaps the point of modern communication is to go through the motions, like when someone calls you saying, “Hello sir (or ma’am), how are you?”

When this happens the next time try saying, “I am well, thank you.” And be silent.

I can almost guarantee that the person will continue by saying: “I am also fine,” before they go on to the reason they called.

In other words, protocol demanded that you ask how they were doing. And you dropped the ball. By them saying “I am also fine” they are very gently rebuking your bad manners.

I find it charming.

I know some people are offended when they receive texts from someone that is not prefixed by a greeting – ‘good morning’, ‘afternoon’, ‘evening’, or even a ‘hello’ or a ‘hi’. Then there are those who will ‘sign’ each text they send with ‘Yours faithfully, Desmond’, or simply ‘Desmond’.

The problem here is that before you send a text these days, you have to consider whether you will be offending someone if you do it in a proper way it’s such a tangled ball of yarn!

Communication has become a minefield. But we have to learn to be flexible, I suppose.

Things that offend or even infuriate one person could be just one of those things to the next person. So maybe it’s time for us to just unclench our jaws, unpucker our sphincters and remember that we are all from different backgrounds.

A rainbow has many different colours but it looks pretty amazing. And a rainbow nation has many different cultures it’s high time we started seeing how best to blend them so that we can appreciate its beauty.