Have we lost touch with face-to-face communication?
Posted: 15th Nov 2018
Before you read on, look around your office – how many
people are actually talking to each other? I’d guess that most are plugged into
their earphones, or beavering away behind their computer screens, probably
emailing the person that sits opposite them. Am I right?
Typing has become our default communication mode!
In the race to innovate and implement new technology, the
digitalisation of the way we work has never been faster. But is this power of
technology in our lives getting us out of the habit of communicating with our
I think it is, and as a result, I’m concerned that the
hugely valuable art of spoken communication is being lost in our workplaces -
simply because we don’t have the opportunity, or even the inclination to talk
to each other enough. After all, it’s far easier to send a bulk email to ten
people, than it is to call them all individually or initiate face-to-face
Instead, most of us are spending our working days emailing,
skyping or texting, sparingly picking up the phone, or meeting in person to
have a conversation. Typing is now our default, go-to mode of communication and
our keyboards are the helpers – usually out of convenience and speed, but mainly
because we’re on auto-pilot.
Why we need to talk
more, and type less
I’ve said this before, but the human touch (including our
voices) just can’t be replicated by technology. Yes, email or Skype messaging
might be quicker and easier, but these forms of communication usually aren’t as
effective as the spoken word – and that’s what many of us just don’t realise.
Talking is usually
more productive. Many of us focus on emptying our inboxes every day to make
us feel more productive and efficient, when really, the opposite is happening. With
more of us sending and receiving more emails than ever before, it’s no wonder
that it’s not the most effective communication tool. We just can’t keep up, and
as a result, the “Sorry for the delayed response” line is becoming too common
in our inboxes.
However, using our voices to communicate, ask a question or
provide a brief for an urgent task is far more likely to a). An actual response
and b). A quicker response. In fact, after one person has spoken, the other
replies in an average of just 200 milliseconds, compared to an email or text
that can be swallowed into a black hole, never to be read, let alone replied
But it’s not just speed of response which makes your voice a
productive form of communication. It’s the fact that this response will
probably be more useful. In fact, a face-to-face request is 34 times more
successful than email. Plus, I’m willing to bet that you can talk faster than
you can type!
Talking to each other
develops a stronger rapport. It’s almost impossible to build up a
productive rapport over email or via digital messaging – no matter how many
emoji’s you use. You just can’t get a real feel for the person behind the keyboard
without actually hearing their voice.
This couldn’t be truer than in the world of recruitment.
Yes, it’s possible to build a picture of a candidate's technical skills and
experience by reading through their CV, but it’s much harder to make an accurate
judgement of their softer skills, and really get an understanding of what
they’re looking for by reading words on a screen. That’s one of the many
reasons our recruiters will always prioritise voice communication over keyboard
when building a relationship with their candidates.
Plus, the typed word just doesn’t capture tone or expression
- both fundamental elements of effective rapport building. Using your voice
helps understand your personality, whilst ensuring the message you’re trying to
get across is clear and understood.
Interestingly, the speed of our digital response is now
perceived as a key indicator of our trustworthiness. So, to put this into real
terms, by not responding to an email in a timely manner for example, we could
essentially risk signalling to the sender that their request isn’t a priority
for us, or that we don’t perceive it to be important. And, as the number of
emails we’re all receiving continues to rise, the more likely it is that this
will happen, and the trust amongst colleagues, clients and stakeholders will
become weaker and weaker over time.
So, next time you’re embroiled in an email conversation
which is going back and forth and dragging on and on, book a meeting or pick up
the phone - you’ll get the outcome you need far more quickly, whilst ensuring
the relationship with the recipient remains intact. Or, when an urgent task
pops up which you need to delegate to a member of your team, resist the urge to
send an email marked as “high importance”. Instead brief them face-to-face or
give them a call. Once the task has been understood, then is the time to follow
up with a confirmation email. And, if you feel telephone calls are too
disruptive or you don’t have time for a face-to-face meeting, try sending a
voice memo instead – telephones, meetings and video conferencing are not the
only ways you can use your voice to communicate.