Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Where do you spend your mind?

From Microsoft Office Images
I'm teaching a special topics course on Nonverbal Communication this semester. We're using the text by Richmond, McCroskey, and Hickson, Nonverbal behavior in interpersonal relations, 7th ed. In the text, Chapter 10 is about how we communicate with our use of time. For instance, we can communicate a person's status perceptions by whether they can dictate our time or we can dictate theirs. We also "tell" a person how important they are to us by how much time we give them or whether we are prompt for an appointment with them or in reply to their text message. How we use our time and other people's time communicates.

But it's also about how we view time. Are you polychronic, where time is fluid, socializing is more important than clocks, and schedules are suggestions rather than written in stone? Are you monochronic, where clocks are our friends and appointments are taken on schedule, one at a time? I just finished a conversation with my wife wherein I was chastised for informing her of my afternoon plans, at the last minute. I know better, but the procrastinator in me didn't figure it out quickly enough. Not that I'm a total monochronic, I prefer to handle one thing at a time and dislike multitasking. In the US, my culture of origin, we tend to be monochronic, but I think individuality plays a large part as well. My wife shared she had just been in a meeting about dealing with other people causing you stress. Her supervisor gave an example of two daughters, one who gets projects started and finished as soon as possible, while the other waits until the last minute (YES!). It's fun to see when two students are in a group project together and come from those two very different time orientations.

In the textbook mentioned above, the authors also share several other facets of time orientations. The first set they offer comes out of Hall's work regarding psychological, biological, and cultural time orientations. In the psychological section three variations are given: past-oriented people, present-oriented people, and future-oriented people. Each bent reflects where a person spends most of their thought life, hence this post's title, "Where do you spend your mind?" Do you frequently look to the past for insight and direction? Are you stuck in the past? Are you still fretting over what has already passed? Are you living for the moment? Are you saving for the future? Are you planning ahead?

As complex creatures we cannot be pigeon-holed into only one option. Our orientations towards time vary sometimes by the second, or by the context or issue. But we may have a natural inclination.

So when you have time to think about it, ask yourself, is it more important to ask where you spend your time or where your spend your mind?