Communication, by its very nature, is a two way street. Someone speaks and someone listens—well, hopefully someone listens—and then someone speaks again; or someone writes and someone responds, and so on. People also communicate non-verbally. A gesture here and a wink there can have the same effect as words.
People communicate in-person, face-to-face; by telephone; by Skype, Facetime, and other video services; and of course by letters, email, text message, and even Tweets and posts on social media.
But is all communication equal? Do all these methods truly represent “good” communication?
Text messaging or emailing condolences to a friend or family member who has just lost a loved one is probably not the best method. But if you’re stopping by the store on the way home from work and want to check if your wife or hubby needs you to pick anything up, then texting can be the perfect communications tool, provided you’re not driving when you do it!
Like most things in our lives, there’s a time and a place for everything. Problems arise, thought, when people get unclear as to what constitutes the right time and place.
For example, did you know there’s now an app for breaking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend? For just 99 cents, its big promise to users is “no more awkward calls” and an “easy way out of relationships.”
Does anyone else see the irony that in a time deemed “the communication age” we seem determined to do anything but communicate, or at least communicate effectively or appropriately?
We may have come a long way in the tools at our disposal, but we still have a long ways to go in how we use them. Text messages, email, and voice mail may all have their place, but nothing can replace the efficacy of a phone call or face-to-face meeting or video chat. Period.
Granted, many of us are so busy that making the time for communicating can be a challenge. I admit that sometimes—heck, lots of times!—it’s far easier for me to send off an email that requires no back and forth, especially after hours. But therein lies the rub—with email and sometimes even text, there’s no interaction, and with interaction comes opportunity, and with opportunity, well that’s where possibility lies.
Sure, with “live” interaction there’s always the possibility of misspeaking or getting tied up in a conversation for 30 minutes when you’ve only got 5 to spare. But there’s also the possibility that one word will lead to another and suddenly you’re off into brainstorming territory which can lead to new ideas and innovations, or maybe you’re sowing the seeds of a relationship that’s about to sprout, or maybe you just happen to “be there” for someone when he or she needs it most.
None of that is really possible with email or text (or even good old fashioned letters). When there is no “live” interaction, our words are stale the moment we hit send. What we see as speed (instant delivery) actually equates to carrying on a conversation at a snail’s pace, unless the recipient of the email is a really fast reader, typist, and responder, or the text recipient has his or her phone at the ready.
For example, where a phone call or face-to-face allows for instant speaking, listening, and adapting to what the other is saying, an email could sit in someone’s inbox waiting to be read and replied to for hours, if not days, and vice versa, if and when you get a response.
How is that faster? How is that more effective? It isn’t.
Over the next several days, try to interact with others more often in-person or even over the phone. When the urge to send email strikes simply because it feels easier, ask yourself, “Could I say it better or make a greater impact by phone?” Chances are the answer will be “Yes.” Worst case, you increase your interactions with others and start to reconnect on a human level vs. simply a technological one . . . and who knows where that might lead.
How do you think reliance on email, texting, and other modern methods has affected your ability to communicate? Do you communicate more or less? Has the quality of your communications improved, or just the quantity?
Share your thoughts here or, better yet, pick up the phone and give me a call.