It’s an “interesting” phenomena for sure — many of the business people that I’ve spoken to this first month of the New Year told me that one of their goals for 2020 was to return to communicating the “old fashioned way,” without such a strong focus on email, texting, and social media. It seems like the telephone (!) and in-person meetings are back in vogue.
By the way, I heard this across the board from middle and senior executives in all types of businesses. (Do I hear a resounding “hooray” from you? I know you do from me!)
Relying on email, text messaging and social media for most of your communication leaves a lot to be desired. Sure, it’s fast and inexpensive and when done expertly, can be very effective. The problem is that it is still very impersonal and can allow for miscues that rarely occur over the phone or in-person.
Even the very best writers can have difficulty communicating complex issues by email; when emotions are running high, it is even more of a problem. The truth is that most people are not excellent writers with the skills required to effectively communicate the right “tone” in their messaging. The recipient of the email may read the words and assume an entirely different meaning from the one that was intended, leading understandably enough, to serious problems.
Even telephone communication has its drawbacks, mostly because there are no visual cues, eye contact and body language to assist in giving off the correct message. We have video calls but even they leave something to be desired, with many people feeling awkward watching themselves on the screen. Still, the telephone is a quantum leap from email, allowing a “two-way” conversation and provides for much more assurance that the message you want to deliver is one that is being “heard.”
In my humble opinion, the most superior mode of communication remains the in-person meeting whereby you have all of the cues at your disposal. Eye contact, body language, the words you say and the tone in which the words are delivered, and even your rate of speech are important components of communication. We’ve learned to make do without some of these most important components but business people are once again seeing how the “old fashioned” way can serve them much better.
Of course not every communication must occur in-person or even by phone. But for important issues and when a more “personal” exchange is needed, phone and in-person are far superior to anything digital. A follow-up email “confirming” what was discussed can help to make certain that everyone is “on the same page” and there is a record of what was discussed and agreed upon.
And old fashioned communication is being embraced even for less significant matters, such as “staying in touch” with dormant accounts and networking partners with the understanding that a quick email might not be enough to break through the sea of emails that come into our in-boxes every day. Standing out by making a call might mean the difference between maintaining visibility and recognition or becoming forgotten.
So perhaps in 2020 being “fast” is no longer the most important goal and we’ve come to see that substance and the personal touch can be more impactful and serve you better than a few keystrokes on a laptop. We’re not going to eliminate digital from our communications toolbox; we’re just going to use it better.