Email. Text. Messenger. Snapchat. Slack. Remember the days when we were forced to talk to each other at work, face to face, in person?
I’m very guilty of using technology to communicate, however, in this blog I would like to argue the point that we rely too much on our smart devices and laptops, rather than face to face discussion. We’re losing so much context and personal engagement through the written word. And worse yet, things get lost in translation, and our messages can be misconstrued. It’s not what you say but how you say it.
And why is it that we’re texting each other from three desks over? Can’t we just get up and walk into someone’s office? I think that we can, and should, make the conscious decision to talk.
There are pitfalls when we don’t talk to each other and we’re robbing ourselves of the opportunity to share, collaborate, strategize, and brainstorm. There is no way that creative or productive planning can be accomplished over email or text.
We might be finding that it’s easier to text or email so that we can craft our messages, and perhaps, hide behind them. Or maybe it’s just effortless at this point. But remember that our little smart phone devices were originally designed so that we could communicate more efficiently.
Tristan Harris is a former product manager at Google who has repeatedly critiqued the way that the big platforms—Apple, Facebook, Google, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram have changed our lives—good or bad. However, he believes that these corporate giants have basically sucked us into the attractiveness of their products.
Harris launched a nonprofit called Time Well Spent, which is devoted to stopping “tech companies from hijacking our minds.” He was also featured in Ted Talk and “Wired”, where he suggests that there needs to be a “renaissance in online design that can free us from being controlled and manipulated by apps, websites, advertisers, and notifications.” He goes on to say that “the problem is the hijacking of the human mind: systems that are better and better at steering what people are paying attention to, and better and better at steering what people do with their time than ever before.”
So, by putting this in perspective, I’ll argue that more “real” business happens with “real” conversation.
And here’s why.
- We need to engage. Relationship building is the most important thing that we can foster at work. Why? Because it positions us as leaders, and it makes us more successful. But indeed, these relationships need to be built from contact, from conversation—or maybe even debate—but it needs to be face-to-face. So, put down your cell phone, shut down your email, and go talk to someone in the hallway or in a conference room.
- We need to use our time wisely. A simple conversation can save you the time of exchanging 20 emails—this back and forth interaction is a total waste of time. Try it, I bet you will accomplish something, and be way more efficient, in a relatively short period of time. Now that’s real business.
- We can, and should, be compelling to attain upward mobility. Again, discussion and interaction are the key here. In order for the conversation to earn its right to be attended to, it needs to be concise and novel. The conversation needs to accomplish something, and it can’t be done by staring at a screen. So, if these are your values and you find yourself in a conversation, there is pressure to be interesting and to perform. But it’s important to try because it changes your position of authority and perception amongst others.
Try an experiment. The next time you’re in a restaurant with your friends, quit showing them Facebook pictures, stop texting your spouse. Put the iPhone down and talk face to face! You will be surprised about your experience.
I’ll leave you with this thought to consider, author David Lynch said, “Everyone is on the internet but they’re not talking to each other. There are groups upon groups out there, but they don’t talk to one another. So, while the internet brings everyone into a shared space, it does not necessarily bring them together.”