One of the situations I have observed in our training programs, especially in the last few years, is the inability or reluctance of some younger folks to have a real, live discussion. This observation comes from listening to hundreds of reports of real-world experiences in the realm of the workplace.
Here is a recent example (one that I have heard many, many times before):
Two people in an organization are working in adjacent cubes. They are emailing back and forth, frantically trying to convince each other of their individual point of view. The emails are going fast and furious. The moment of truth (the real “Ah-ha moment”) takes place when one of them actually gets up, goes to the other’s workspace, and starts a face-to-face discussion. It is amazing that this approach is actually a new idea for a lot of the individuals I’ve observed. In addition to internal communications, the same thing is taking place in vendor and customer situations, as well as personal relationships. So why is this happening?
I’m not really sure, outside of observation and talking with many of these people. It seems that the comfort level of communication has to do with pushing buttons and sending messages via email, texting, social media, etc. The idea of talking face-to-face or over the phone is almost a foreign concept, and one that truly does require folks to move out of their comfort zone. And yes, a different skill set is necessary when face-to-face or over the phone when trying to come to mutually acceptable solutions. Pushing buttons often acts as a barrier to getting to the heart of issues.
In doing a wee bit of research, the average person with a cell phone places or receives a call about 200 times per month. They send or receive about 400 texts per month. That’s almost twice as many texts as phone calls and that’s just the average. I firmly believe that many are afraid of having a real, live conversation. It is a confidence issue, as well as a skill set issue.
In a study done in the UK, 18 to 24 year olds said they would rather have their cell phone than their TV. It is interesting that TV used to be the problem or barrier to conversation. The problem meaning that it was affecting how people thought and spoke to one another. Now it’s texting. And it’s not just because it’s something to do; many people feel it is the only way to communicate.
This can be a dangerous habit as well. My guess is that you have been driving behind someone clearly involved in an interesting conversation on his or her cell phone. Take that to the next level where they are texting and it gets even more interesting, if not outright dangerous.
Sometimes you can go to word origins and get insight. “Communicate” has its origin in Latin, meaning “to make common.” This is another way of saying “being on the same page.” What’s easier when trying to find common ground: Texting, emailing, or going live? Face-to-face is the best, but even in a phone call you can interpret tone, emotion, and many other qualities.
So, what to do, what to do?
The next time you are thinking of texting or emailing a person who is literally in the next cube or across the room, and the need for “common ground” is important, just go have a conversation. Build that skill set that truly is a critical link in a positive career path. JUST TALK!!!
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