In today’s environment, face to face communication seems inefficient. Being in the same room as the person you want to speak with isn’t always possible or convenient. It’s just a lot easier to send a text, pick up the phone, or send an email.
It’s important to remember, though, that every other form of communication is a just substitute for face to face conversation–and, often, a poor substitute. In fact, face to face is often the most efficient form of communication we have available to us. Consider that:
- We developed written language as a stand in for the spoken word, with punctuation representing the pauses and breaks between words that help convey meaning. And while written communication is very necessary, it’s still a stand in, still a compromise.
- When we wanted a way to communicate synchronously without being in the same room, we invented the telephone. It too is lacking, though, since it doesn’t allow for the non-verbals and visuals that supplement and illustrate the spoken word.
- Email is just another written language, as are text messages, status updates via social media, etc. We try to use emoticons to compensate for what we miss when we can’t be face to face, but I don’t know anyone who thinks emoticons are an adequate substitute for human emotion.
- Skype is great, as are webconferences, Ustream, and other synchronous video options. But they’re still imperfect. they still lack the human touch.
This isn’t some Luddite rant against technology. I’m glad I live at a time and in a communication environment with so many options. However, it’s important to remember that all other forms of communication are inferior to face to face, and are therefore best used to facilitate face to face conversations.
Today, then, try communicating face to face just once where you might have otherwise sent an email or made a phone call. Maybe it means a walk down the hall or a conversation over lunch. And while you’re at it, put away your phone and really listen.
Try it. See what happens. Consider whether it’s really less efficient than how you normally communicate, or more efficient in the long run since you have all your senses working for you.