Cup of Coffee: It Really is About Communication

Category: Weekly Columns

Caffeine facts and information

When I grew up there were coffee shops, not places that more or less exclusively served coffee and snacks. Coffee shops were diners and casual restaurants, which often had counters with stools for individuals. There was a local chain of them in our area that my family loved to frequent. Now, it’s fast food and Starbuck’s. But does a cup of coffee mean communication or just a cup ‘o joe while surfing the web, sitting alone, and isolated? Is it just the older retired people who actually meet at the local coffee spot to talk and people watch?

How do you like your coffee?

I’ve previously and regularly addressed my concerns that our kids are failing in the art of conversation. Whereas I spent hours on the phone – when my parents allowed it – speaking with my guy friends and later girl friends, my boys text as their primary form of communication. The actual cell-phone talk usage is negligible except for my wife and me. Not that my wife and me are actually speaking to each other!

And, even my phone habits have changed with the new technologies and how busy I am so much of the time. My primary phone time is when I’m driving somewhere at least 15 or so minutes. I then reach out to connect with family and friends and enjoy a real conversation. Or, I like to speak while walking around our nearby lake since I consider that a good dual use of my time. At home, I don’t even answer our land-line and only glance at my cell to see who it is and usually feel disturbed when it rings – yet not so when it beeps a text. Interesting, isn’t it?

Coffee shops serve more than coffee

I think they serve more than coffee at this “coffee shop” in Amsterdam!

When I ask someone to meet me for a cup of coffee, it’s because I actually want to communicate with him or her. It may be for business or it may simply be a friend, but I want to look them in the eye and engage. I wonder if the notion of a cup of coffee means the same to my kids, millenials, and others in their thirties or younger?

How often do you see a group of young people – physically together – but each in their own worlds on their smart-phones? That sight always amuses me. How often have you texted your kid IN your own home?

How important is coffee to you?

The art of conversation is truly an art. It gives you a meaningful opportunity to know someone better, to learn, and to develop a meaningful and deeper personal or business relationship.

In my first career in showbiz, everything was done over a meal or drink, it seemed. Getting a breakfast with someone of import was a coup; a lunch was better, and the home run was dinner. Why the difference? Because each had its own designated time-frame expectations. Breakfast was invariably rushed; lunch was a bit more relaxed, while dinner could be open-ended.

Savage Chickens takes on coffee

When my career in showbiz began, there were no cell-phones so the only interruption to face-to-face conversation – at a meal or drinks meeting – would either be the waiter, someone coming over to say hello, or the rare interruption from a phone call to the restaurant for one of us. That meant a rushed “excuse me” and going to the front desk, where a short but quick conversation would take place, usually involving very basic information sharing. It also usually entailed a bit of anxiety because getting such a call was unusual.

Wow, just writing the above makes me feel not only old but as if those practices are ancient and oddly quaint. They were anything but. They were great times. I made my career at those meals. I also made my career on the tennis court, selling my first television-movie to the head of movies at CBS, after securing a date with him to play on his home tennis court.

Everything you want to know about coffee

Maybe the golf course still allows these kinds of interactions, but where else is it present today? Email? Texting? Twitter? Facebook? I think not. A deep relationship or a real connection takes more than 140 characters or a cute Instagram photo?

Today, I occasionally try these old methods of asking a potential business associate to meet for a meal, drink, or coffee. IF they are under thirty, the answer is invariably a No, followed by “let’s exchange emails or have a quick conversation on the phone.” The only time I’ve regularly been able to have meaningful face-to-face time has been at conferences and then, it’s often interrupted by cell-phone usage. See my recent column, The Value of IRL Conferences.

Cartoon about caffeine and insomnia

I completely value the tools of Social Media and modern technology but I may sound like an old fart by stating I miss the connections we used to make – regularly – by speaking on the phone and meeting for a meal or really having a cup of coffee together.

Einstein's Coffee Shop in Park City, Utah

How about skipping that $5 Starbucks latte and splurging $2.99 (for the Kindle on Amazon) or $2.79 for the PDF of my new e-book? Enjoy my own informercial for it! This e-book is really a virtual journey. It’s filled with 100 photos, 7 original videos, and links to many of the stops on the trip. Click on the book cover image below to find your purchase options:

The Empty-Nest Road Trip Blues book cover


  • Daniel Alexander

    Hi Bruce
    I’m on the same track as you with this.
    Life is all about communication.
    Success financially, with friends and partners and all other forms of success are based on communication.
    If it were up to me, we’d learn more about communication in school and less about history and geography.
    There has never been a day where I walked outside, picked up some gravel and said, “Aaah, this is igneous rock; I’ll close that deal today.”
    However, everyday I, and all the rest of us, need to communicate.
    So a question then.
    How do your kids interact with other kids face-to-face?

    • Bruce Sallan

      Again @daniel_dinnie:disqus we are on the same page. My boys communicated with their friends quite differently – and still do. My older one still like to talk on the phone, while my younger one almost exclusively relies on texts. My older one is ALWAYS getting together with his friends IRL, while my younger has plenty of friends but has outside-of-school and play rehearsal time with them less. He’s very social but seems quite satisfied with texting and Facebook…

      • Daniel Alexander

        What does IRL mean?

        • Bruce Sallan

          @daniel_dinnie:disqus – In Real Life

          • Daniel Alexander

            Notice how NOT internet lingo savvy I am…
            ‘Savvy’ is a good word.
            It doesn’t really get used enough in our word today.
            Same with ‘hooray’.
            The kids are losing out on yet another aspect of language…
            Tisk* tisk*

          • Bruce Sallan

            ttyl @daniel_dinnie:disqus P.S. got your email – will discuss with my SoMe manager tomorrow!

          • Daniel Alexander

            What does that mean?

            Cool, I look forward to your mail.

          • Bruce Sallan

            IDK, but YOU need an acronym list @daniel_dinnie:disqus – maybe start with this:

          • Daniel Alexander

            There is an acronym for I got to pee…
            There is no hope…

  • Michelle_Mazur

    I too remember talking to my girlfriends for hours on the phone. My mom begging me to get off and go to be. It’s a shame that teens don’t do that (although it is probably quieter). Doing that does teach you the rules of engagement and how to have a conversation. It worries me that the art of face-to-face communication is getting lost, but teens are going to have to learn it. You can’t text your boss for a raise.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Boy do we agree @Michelle_Mazur:disqus – we probably over-did it, but today’s kids are under-doing it with so little F2F engagement except at school…Remember talking to friends late at night and hoping you wouldn’t hear that click of your mom picking up the extension?

  • Kenna Griffin

    I see your point, Bruce. However, remember, that a conversation (and a connection) doesn’t have to be verbal. I communicate with my daughter a lot via text or social media. Honestly, we’re probably closer because of it. It doesn’t replace our verbal communication, it supplements. I also have a friend whose son texts her things he’s too embarrassed to tell her. Because of this, she knows more about his young life than she would otherwise. I too hate it when I see a group of people sitting around a table looking at their phones. It makes you wonder why they’re even together. However, I say “to each her own.” 


    • Bruce Sallan

      As usual – lol – we agree @twitter-27305797:disqus – it really is about balance – new tech can open up kids to their parents…but are the kids not learning the “Art” of conversation?

  • dadofdivas

    I force myself to go out and have lunch once a week with different friends and co-workers so that I can stay I too see students that I work with everyday more connected to their phones or their “social” selves than themselves in reality and this makes me just sad.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Are you really “forcing” yourself, Chris @dadofdivas:disqus ?

      • dadofdivas

        Maybe not, but it is a conscious thing, as there is so much going on at work, I usually find it easier to simply eat and work

        • Bruce Sallan

          Seriously @dadofdivas:disqus – getting OUT OF THE OFFICE is a good thing!

          • dadofdivas

            I know it is… I am also frugal!

  • Jen Olney

    The real art of communication is face to face not through the internet. We have lost the art of conversing in person it seems. I’d much rather have a real conversation – in real time – then wait for a reply. So much can be lost in the writing, but you get the truth when you are eye to eye

    • Bruce Sallan

      @twitter-121085582:disqus – I look forward to the day when we get that opportunity!

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  • Patrick

    The people I’m closest to are people I talk to 95% of the time by phone (because they aren’t in the same town I’m in). Most of them don’t text, so I actually have a great reason to TALK instead.

    There are times when I specifically want to be alone, have a cup of coffee and work on the blog or catch up on emails or read. Today’s “coffee shops” work beautifully for that, but if I’m in a coffee shop these days, I’m more likely to be with at least one person than I am to be solo. 

    Maybe I’m doing better than I realized! 🙂 

    • Bruce Sallan

      YOU are doing great @Patrick:twitter – take my Social Media Addiction test that will be published this weekend to check further!

  • Weberdcom

    This was a fantastic column! It raised a number of thoughts and questions, and reminded me of several things.

    I live alone and have never texted anyone in my house to contact them.  But I have heard from many people, both over and under age 35, who routinely do this.  It makes sense to do, although it does strike me as sort of odd…of course, if you live in a house over, say, 2,000 sq. ft., maybe yelling, (“Dinner’s ready!” or “Hey, c’mere and help me move the piano!”) is uncivilized.  

    Amsterdam coffee shops…yes, indeed, they do more than sell coffee…they sell fruit juice, cookies … and pot.   Thanks to a law passed in the last year, they are now off limits to anyone who is not a Dutch citizen, I have been told.  In ’08 and ’09 I happened to visit Amsterdam and smoked pot in a coffee shop once each visit, just because it was an odd thrill to be able to smoke it legally and not furtively.  I don’t live in a state with legal medical marijuana, and I don’t have any kind of “connection” so I go years and years without smoking. I’m from the generation that stuffed towels under dorm room doors before smoking, because you could go to jail for having even a small amount of dope on your person.

    What is the generic name for a place like Stabucks or Peet’s or, where I live, Port City Java?  We call them coffee shops, but for me a coffee shop really means an inexpensive eatery, something like a diner.  Denny’s is an example of a coffee shop chain I can think of that is national (international, I guess, because as far back as the ’80s, when I lived in Japan, there was a Denny’s in Tokyo).  Altho Denny’s is calling itself a restaurant, I suppose to add class to their image.  I attempt to call a Starbucks/etc. outlet a coffee store…chain operations typically to each of their buildings as “stores” … but “coffee store” sounds like a place you buy coffee beans and that is only some of what a Starbucks/etc. outlet sells.  

    Maybe “coffee joint” would be good, a kind of arch or ironic way to refer to an outlet…although the word “joint” conjures up a smoky cafe near Times Square, or a Mississippi chicken shack.  Hmmm, what the heck, I think I’ll start calling ’em coffee joints, not coffee shops.  For real authenticity, it would be “coffee jernt,” to get that Times Square side street thing going on.

    Meeting for coffee, yes, a great and easy way to do business.  Before I entered academia, I was a business consultant; and many an alliance, client relationship, idea, connection and so on was forged at a “coffee joint” (see the previous paragraph).  I lived in Denver and it was a big deal when the first Starbucks came to town in very roughly 1995, if I remember correctly.  Prior to that, many of these coffee meetings took place at The Harvest, a restaurant that served natural foods. It was a place where consultants hung out and bullsnatched one another when they weren’t meeting business contacts.

    A group of young men and women, each person on an individual phone, working his or her keypad like crazy, grinning or scowling, and occasionally stretching his or her phone over to another person in the group, who reacts with a chuckle or frown…truly an emblem of our era.

    To me, of particular interest were those passages in the article that sketched elements of an industry culture: the meetings at meals in the entertainment business, and how each meal meant something different.  I would imagine that is still part of the industry today, but what I am curious about is how texting, email and mobile telecoms has contributed to the relationship-heavy basis of that business.  I would guess there are some unwritten rules that determine who gets your most private mobile phone number or one particular email address reserved only for close friends or associates.

    • Bruce Sallan

      @7f990e539df4ddefe26884eb65a5f04c:disqus – You are the King – of commenters! I love it and always appreciate the added stories you bring to your comments. A pot-smoking guy from the sixties? How unusual…lol!