By sending a quick text or email to someone many of us feel as if we are efficient in our communication. It may help us to quickly check something off of our to-do list but have we authentically communicated our intent in what we wrote?
Often, when we write a quick, short and sometimes cryptic note it has the potential to be misunderstood, resulting in a variety of emotional responses from our reader that we are unaware of. Many times, the recipient of our communication doesn’t say anything directly to us. But they act based on their assumption of what they thought we were saying or intending. Then, clear and direct communication continues to unravel.
A quick phone call or stopping in to someone’s office can result in good, two-way communication that clearly communicates intent and allows assumptions to be clarified promptly and efficiently.
This is part 4 in this 5-part series on A New Era of Relationships by Diana Gabriel, Certified Strengths Strategy Coach.Face-to-face conversations are a connected and fully engaging experience. Click To Tweet
Has technology been affecting your social skills? Some say we are diminishing our abilities to interact well because we rely on virtual communication too much. There is no definitive answer, of course, but it is worth considering.
The key to differentiation in all fields—from engineering to law, from management to medicine—lies in our ability to socially interact with others. Those who will be more likely to be hired, retained and are most capable of flourishing in almost all professions are people skilled at forming emotional bonds, influencing others and being decisive.
In the late 1950s, management expert Peter Drucker coined the term knowledge worker to describe valued skills in an increasingly information-based economy. More than 50 years later, our most valuable people can be dubbed relationship workers.
No matter your job or field, successful leaders must be effective at creating hope, engendering trust, showing compassion and providing security says Rath and Conchie in their book Strengths Based Leadership (2009). Unfortunately, a focus on technology and skills acquisition has caused many of our interpersonal abilities to atrophy.
Technology Does Change Us
Many of us tend to rely too much on tech tools to communicate quickly and efficiently. We text or email instead of calling or meeting face-to-face. This does, indeed, save time, but it is impossible for us to pick up on nonverbal cues—a critical component of building relationships. It is so easy to be misunderstood or to misunderstand another in an email or text message.
As a leader, you are unable to notice facial expressions, as well as subtle shifts in vocal tone, eye movement, posture, physical distance and other social signals. Spotting these cues quickly is crucial to responding appropriately.
In one social experiment, scientists gathered a group of sixth-graders in a camp for five days with no screen access. No computers, no tablets, no cellphones, no music players, no games and no TV. They wanted to measure the children’s ability to recognize nonverbal emotional cues in others. After just five days of solely face-to-face interaction, the students had become far more emotionally insightful.
American adults (ages 16 to 45) with access to at least two devices report 7.5 hours of screen time daily. Indonesians spend 9 hours a day and Filipinos just a few minutes less, so this is not an affluence-related phenomenon. Imagine what this does to our social and cultural sensitivity.
Face-to-Face Contact is Vital for Leadership Influence
The quality of the real human connection is weak with digital communication. When two people talk face-to-face their brains synchronize. This doesn’t happen when we are back-to-back, so our faces are vital communication tools. Video communication can provide weak synchronization, yet still better than text or email.
The opportunity to experience one another and be in conversation can influence and even determine how well a group performs a wide range of tasks. The personal connection helps everyone become smarter and more capable. When your teams meet face-to-face at least once they are better able to work well virtually after that. Greater communication challenges occur within teams who have never met in person. Following up with periodic in-person meetings bolsters their connection.
When people get together, they naturally tend to be curious about each other and connect more genuinely. Face-to-face conversations are a connected, fully engaging experience that builds overall mental abilities and trust.
Through the coaching I offer, I hear about miscommunication a lot. Some of it is due to technology challenges, and people’s assumptions that meaning and intent are shared when they’re not. Often, miscommunication can be cleared up with a short in-person interaction.