Can You Communicate?

Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” participated in an interview with Tucker Carlson during
which he stated a great concern with emojis. There is nothing inherently wrong with
cartoony emojis, but Rowe theorizes the “shorthand” or lazy communication option
contributes to the decline in soft skills of young job candidates. He states, “They’re not
using their words to a degree that’s making people excited about hiring them…”

I heard this interview and it caught my attention because I am a member of the grammar,
word choice, and spelling police. Malaprops (look up the meaning) really bug me but I keep
that oddity to myself, mostly. I decided I must just be old and not “with the times” nor
technologically adept. But then something happened that gave me pause…

I teach a class of four and five year olds at church. As part of our lesson, one student was
blindfolded and another student had to guide him or her to the empty chair. Each student had
the opportunity to be blindfolded and to give directions. These students could only use words
to guide the blindfolded student, no touching allowed. Most of my students didn’t have the
words to guide the blindfolded student.

They could find the chair and thump on it saying, “Here, it is here.”  Words like “straight”, “turn”,
“left or right (even if incorrect)” and “put out your hands” were unavailable.  “Fast”, “slow”,
“touch or feel” and “careful” were not used either. Nor could they say, “Listen and follow my voice.”
These students couldn’t use their words to communicate even though they have all “graduated”
from pre-school and will all start kindergarten in just a few weeks.

But put a phone or iPad in front of them and they can figure out how to play games, draw
pictures, play music, call Grandma, and order stuff. My two year old granddaughter can say,
“’Lexa, play Bus,” her favorite song…Wheels on the Bus. Communicating with technology is being
absorbed by example and experience but the ability to communicate with people seems to have
gone the way of old time cartoons: short, sweet, and mostly pointless.

If we communicate shorthand, does that mean we will analyze “shorthand”, invest “shorthand”,
research new skills, medicine and treatments “shorthand”, and look for “shorthand” ways to
become doctors, nurses, and gain other skilled positions? And does “shorthand” communication
truly convey complicated or new thoughts? Will future anthropologists examine our cartoony,
shorthand culture and determine we really weren’t all that advanced despite our phone and iPad
skills? Is this what you want to hire?



Susan Teerlink is the accountability and admissions coach for College Funding Advisors, LLC,
located in Harrisonburg, VA. She was also a co-author on the book Secrets Of How To Avoid
Overpaying For College  and is involved with GRASP, the Great Aspirations Scholarship
Program, a non-profit based in Richmond, Virginia.  You can read her other articles at

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