John Quinn|Feb 14, 2012

Email. Text. Tweet. Repeat.

That’s a tweet-sized summary of how more and more of us are spending our time communicating. The burgeoning variety of electronic communications tools makes it easy to skip the option of face-to-face interaction in our daily lives. Perhaps not intentionally, but for the sake of speed or convenience – or just plain laziness – we often opt for less-than-personal interpersonal communication.

Ask yourself this: How many times this week have I emailed, texted, tweeted or phoned someone within easy walking distance from me? Or even within easy speaking distance? I find myself doing it nearly every day.

Pros and Cons

No one disputes the speed and convenience of electronic communications platforms. Those are huge benefits that are now indispensible in our lives, and they provide an easily-accessed record of discussions and decisions. With social media, we’re making far more interpersonal connections than ever before, as well as exploring new ways to work and play together with like-minded people around the world.

But as we increasingly slip into electronic communication mode, we need to remind ourselves of the power of face-to-face interaction, complete with all the nonverbal cues we use to get our message across and to better understand what we’re hearing. In fact, there is research that indicates we actually rely on nonverbal cues more than actual words to interpret messages in face-to-face situations.

Body Language

The gestures we make, the way we sit, how fast we talk, how close we stand, how much eye contact we make – even when we’re silent, we’re sending messages. These nonverbal messages may not match the words that are spoken, and that insight is also a critical face-to-face communications tool.

If you need convincing, ask any good salesperson. He or she will tell you that electronic communication is great for frequency, speed and documentation, but face time always wins out if you really want to close the deal. It gives you a much more powerful arsenal of tools to get your message across, gauge reaction and adjust accordingly in order to bridge any divide between your viewpoint and the person or people you are trying to convince.

Virtual Face Time

But in the day-to-day race to do more faster and with greater efficiency, even the best arguments for old-fashioned sit-in-a-room-together communication hit the hard wall of practical realities. We all know that getting from place to place to communicate face-to-face is a time-killer.

So maybe virtual face time is the bridge that will link us to the best of both worlds. The makers of communications technology are helping us get there, with more and more platforms integrating video features that allow us to see each other when we communicate electronically. Some companies even use video platforms to pre-interview job candidates.

With these advances, I remain hopeful that the future holds more face-to-face interaction in our daily lives. I site a recent lunchroom experience to make my case:

I was in the kitchen having lunch with a group of coworkers and saw the time-honored tradition of face-to-face communication making a comeback, but with some techno bells and whistles.

New iPhones had just been delivered to a bunch of us to replace our Blackberry devices. Sitting around the lunch table and playing with the new phones, it was clear that Apple’s FaceTime feature was a favorite with a real wow factor. Granted, people were sitting within five feet of each other staring at their phones instead of one another, but they were thrilled by the idea of seeing each other’s face when they talked on the phone. And I thought to myself: “This is good.”

What’s your favorite virtual communication platform? Let us know in the comments!


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