The 2019 Work Place Prerequisite: Why Face-to-Face Communication Still Crucial in the Digital Age
There’s no denying that texting, emailing and making phone calls all make perfect sense when reaching out to employees or colleagues for quick answers. These communication methods even work well in various customer service scenarios, making it a breeze to get clients the help they need right away.
However, as a communication expert and international speaker who has worked with business leaders around the globe, I believe digital communication is not always the best approach in all professional situations.
In fact, virtual communication can exclude that personal connection that takes place when you meet associates face-to-face. Sure, technology tools can help us increase productivity and boost efficiency, yet it’s the intensifying relationship with all-things digital that can send us down the road to bad habits – especially if it becomes a substitute for face-to-face, human interaction.
In my experience, we often cultivate better business relationships with each other, and our clients, via personal, human interactions. This method also reduces miscommunications, giving us the opportunity to build trust and better understanding.
We can also promote more creativity and productivity in-person. Studies show that meeting face-to-face allows for increased eye contact, which can develop increased trust and encourage staff members to confide in and collaborate with each other.
Over the years, the power of face-to-face meetings can be seen in some of the most successful companies. For example, the late Steve Jobs, evidently created Apple’s office workspaces strategically to encourage employees to have more personal interactions. And search engine giant Google serves team members complimentary food in its cafeterias, in part to persuade them to stay on campus and interact and socialize with colleagues during meal times.
Here are several reasons why face-to-face meetings work better in the professional world:
- Non-Verbal Communication. Even if you think you know a colleague or client well, meeting with them in-person every so often can help you understand each another in ways that virtual communication methods simply cannot. Often times, it’s the things not said that convey true meaning. For example, during a contract negotiation meeting, non-verbal cues like a smile, a frown, a raised eyebrow or the placement of a hand on a chin can help you (or your client) eventually reach an agreement that is advantageous to each party.
- Animated Interactions. In some cases, humans tend to mimic each other’s actions. For instance, if your actions express openness, there’s an increased likelihood that the colleagues or clients you’re meeting with will convey similar behavior, too – which can ultimately help you accomplish more. Also, mirroring behavior develops a connection quickly, a necessary ingredient in order for a business relationship to prosper.
- It’s Tougher to Mask Reality. Let’s face it: it’s harder to hide reality when you are standing face-to-face with a team member. In fact, many non-verbal cues are exhibited unconsciously. For instance, people’s pupils tend to dilate when they are excited, and they constrict when they are disappointed or sad. As we look into another person’s eyes, we absorb emotional information and respond accordingly.
- Creating Trust. In my experiences around the globe, I’ve realized that very few things develop and build trust like an actual face-to-face meeting. Aspects like the tone of voice, the firmness of your handshake, and even the way you are dressed, can provide an authentic way for a person to decide whether or not they trust you. Also, you might think you have a great personality, but chances are slim that your clients or business associates will truly realize this factor if they have never met you face-to-face. Characteristics – such as friendliness – often don’t get relayed if you are only communicating via email with a client or team member. Instead, meeting individuals in-person is a powerful way to show them who you are, what you can do to help them.
- Face-to-face communication can boost efficiency– instead of spending an entire day emailing back and forth, you can establish the details of a project all at once. These meetings can also enhance creativity. In-person contact can also be more effective for those who may struggle with written communication. Everyone has their own unique set of skills – some employees are much more clear (and comfortable) with face-to-face communication.
Finally, one of the most significant advantages of in-person communication is demonstrating respect for employees. It also shows a commitment to a successful outcome, especially if you are dealing with a sensitive issue or a challenging conversation.
A Healthy Balance Is Key
In today’s digital age environment, the significance of in-person communication seems to be vanishing – many professionals can go almost an entire day without actually interacting with others face-to-face.
While it is impossible to deny the importance of innovations and technology tools that have revolutionized communication, it is vital to balance our digital interactions with face-to-face communication. Interacting with an employee or client in-person delivers a message before you ever speak a word. Others will not only hear what you are saying, but they will sense the over-arching meaning of your body language, tone and emotion.
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