Recovering the Lost Art of Human Communication

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Recovering the Lost Art of Human Communication
September 27, 2015

A business trade organization is recognizing Board member contributions during a recent breakfast meeting. Hundreds are in attendance, but there are so many awards that the audience is losing interest and starting to chat with others at their tables. But then the speaker introduces one Board member by saying “when she needs to talk to you, she does it in person…. which is SO POWERFUL.”

The inflection of awe in the speaker’s voice is so strong that it gets the room’s attention and speaks volumes on how as a society we have lost the art of human communication. It seems that every day there are more articles and blogs posts on the subject of technology and how it is impeding our ability to communicate, rather than enhancing it. There are even medical opinions that show a real cost to the human race in the form of a lack of emotional maturity of our young.

In We Never Talk Anymore: The Trouble With Texting, Jeffrey Kluger discusses how developmental psychologists studying the issue worry about its impact:

Not just because kids are such promiscuous users of the technology, but because their interpersonal skills — such as they are — have not yet fully formed. Most adults were fixed social quantities when they first got their hands on a text-capable mobile device, and while their ability to have a face-to-face conversation may have eroded in recent years, it’s pretty well locked in. Not so with teens. As TIME has reported previously, MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle is one of the leading researchers looking into the effects of texting on interpersonal development. Turkle believes that having a conversation with another person teaches kids to, in effect, have a conversation with themselves — to think and reason and self-reflect.

In Forbes’ Is Social Media Sabotaging Real Communication, Susan Tardanico relates the tragic story of a teen who sounded fine when posting on Facebook, and when sending texts and tweets, but committed suicide on the same day. She goes on to cite:

As human beings, our only real method of connection is through authentic communication. Studies show that only 7% of communication is based on the written or verbal word. A whopping 93% is based on nonverbal body language. Indeed, it’s only when we can hear a tone of voice or look into someone’s eyes that we’re able to know when “I’m fine” doesn’t mean they’re fine at all…or when “I’m in” doesn’t mean they’re bought in at all.

Of course, the benefits that technology provides in the forms of cost and time efficiencies cannot be disputed, and I’m guessing no one would want to lose the ability to email, text, tweet, like, post, pin, insta, or snap. But certainly we have to recognize that human beings are built for personal relationships and that a true connection cannot be duplicated any other way but in person.

This phenomenon is playing out in the business setting as well, and offers an opportunity for those who take the time to connect with colleagues and prospects in a way others can’t or won’t. The Young Entrepreneur Council says in The 7 Pillars of Connecting with Absolutely Anyone that “personal relationships run the world”, and that’s spot on.

So for those who may have forgotten, or for those who have never known anything else but how to communicate via technology, here’s how it’s done:

  1. Meet in person regularly: Don’t conduct all business via email; rather, meet with colleagues regularly. The same applies to service providers – check in with your clients and prospects regularly and in person.
  2. Use your mouth instead of your fingers: Walk down the hall to say thanks; use the telephone to ask a question. Even if you get their voice mail, they hear your voice, and know exactly where you’re coming from because of your tone.
  3. Give your full attention: Actively listen, ask questions, and maintain eye contact to show your authentic interest. Do NOT look at your phone or answer emails at any time.
  4. Send hand-written notes: Say happy birthday or thank you with a hand-written note; receivers will notice and appreciate the fact that you took time to do so.
  5. Find that commonality: When meeting someone new, ask about their business, family, interests, etc and find something in common that connects you. It’s there, and is typically easy to find.

Yes, it’s more time consuming at the front end, but you will avoid misperceptions that communicating via technology invariably creates, leading to your success long-term. And, you may just make some new friends along the way.

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