Let me share a little story…
A client had sent me a very unhappy e-mail. I spent the next three to four hours drafting up what I thought was a very constructive, political and positive response. A few hours later, I got another unhappy e-mail. This went on for about 3 more e-mails. Sound familiar?
I was confused by the tone of my client’s e-mail and I decided to pick up the phone and just call him.
It turns out he had a bad day. A very bad day. We also fundamentally had different expectations of the project because what was supposed to be a three-month project turned out to be almost a year long.
After hearing his voice and tone, I was able to listen and ask questions that helped him self-reflect and calm down. We spoke for a good hour. We laughed, realigned ourselves, and came to terms.
I text staff, friends, clients, prospects— pretty much everyone.
I even text and e-mail my wife.
Whenever I need to communicate with someone, I usually text.
Texting is easy, quick, and convenient. It also allows me to respond at any time, or simply ignore/defer it. That’s the secret to its popularity.
But is texting as a main form of communication good for ourselves, our family, and our business?
Easy and Productive
While texting is easy and productive, it comes at a cost— one we don’t always think about when we text: human contact.
Even if you include emojis in every text to illustrate your feelings, it’s not the same. I can’t look into your eyes. I can’t read your body language. That experience provides so much more than a smiley face with a tongue sticking out of it.
We text so much these days, we often forget what it’s like to talk with people face-to-face, to see their reactions to something we’ve said or hear the intonations in their voice. I notice it even more with the younger generations.
You can’t hear a person’s tone in a text or an email. You can only assume.
Non-verbal body language cues trigger our senses. So all this texting and e-mailing means we’re losing touch with our senses.
The Key To Understanding
Often, the “tells” generated by our senses are the real key to understanding a message. Without them we’re prone to miscommunication and misunderstanding.
This is because much of the way we communicate is non-verbal. Our facial expressions, our eyes, our posture, and our gestures—they all send a subliminal message to people we’re interacting with.
This is why I especially enjoy playing poker. I used to play online poker with nine tables going at any given time, but I have found it less fulfilling and less opportunistic. When you’re playing with people in real life situations you’re getting access to more of their non-verbal cues.
It’s a game that requires you to almost ignore what other players are saying verbally, and instead pay attention to what they’re saying non-verbally. I know when other players are uncomfortable because they will shake their legs, sway back and forth, or touch their face. I can even detect discomfort by observing where they look, or how fast they are breathing.
I learned the key to understanding another person’s message is through observing their body language so when we choose to send a text rather than communicate face-to-face, a part of their message is lost in translation.
The Value Of Connecting
Face-to-face communication presents an incredible opportunity to use all of our senses to really understand the other person’s message. This helps to establish a stronger bond with the person we’re communicating with.
Business is about developing meaningful relationships with people. Don’t get me wrong, you need to have a great product and/or service, but relationships form the best companies.
When I sold the first ad in our magazine, the client hadn’t even seen our product because it was our first issue, he trusted us and handed over the cheque.
When I sold my first design gig, I didn’t have a portfolio. Because I had already established trust with our meaningful interactions, my client believed in me, gave me the cheque, and off I went to figure it all out later.
Stand Out From The Noise
Communicating over the phone or face-to face-does something else — something that’s especially important these days. I was recently reminded about it by a friend of mine, Anthony, from the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.
Opting for more genuine communication differentiates you from other business people. As productive as texting and email can appear to be, taking the time to phone/video-call/meet someone makes you stand out— more so now than ever.
It also shows others they’re important and in business that’s key. It can be the edge you need to win in an intensely competitive marketplace.
What I’m Practicing
As for myself, I’ve started texting less, and phoning/video-calling/meeting with people more over the last few months.
Obviously, it’s not possible to meet or call someone all the time. But, the more I did it, the more I could sense a person’s true emotions and tells. I believe everyone can benefit from it.
So the next time you want to text someone, ask yourself this: “Am I trying to create a meaningful relationship, or am I just sending some quick FYI information to them?”
Communication isn’t just a tool. It can be a weapon. Choose wisely.
Photography Credit: Jim Pennucci