“Never underestimate the power of conversation. Almost everything we can do to improve a situation or a problem begins with a conversation. It is the most elegant and effective tool we have to make change and build relationships and community: sharing what is important to us through conversation with another person.”
In this day and age it is so easy to communicate via an email or text, or through social media. But with all of our technology advances, I think we’ve lost a bit of connectedness. We are definitely connected, but are we really connecting?
I recall a specific moment, way back in 2002 when one of our long-term clients, a Fortune 50 company, was merging with another major company. I was having a meeting with a client from the merging company who was visiting our agency to discuss a new project. Although we had email and used it regularly at the time , we were predominantly phone-centric with our clients.
But on this particular day, I noticed that the client was heavily using her email. I remember her saying that they’re “all about email” at her company and that it was rare to get or make a call. She said that it was just easier.
We both wondered: When the two companies merged, which form of communication would win?
Fast forward two years: The winner? Hands down, e-mail!
Since then, technology has given us even more incredible advances: smart phones, SMS, Zoom, Skype, and so much more:
- On the one hand, we can work anywhere, anytime, connected across oceans and time zones easily, and build relationships without barriers.
- On the other hand, people multi-task so much that you may not have their full attention, and you might be pulled in a million different directions and not give them your full attention.
How common is this scenario? You’re trying to compose an email, while DMing with 5 people, attending a conference call, answering a message coming in from Slack, and receiving a Facetime request.
Yet we do it. Somehow or another we just do. But I wonder if others feel the same way: sometimes I find that when so many things are coming at me at one time, non-stop, I simply can’t concentrate or focus.
There is one thing I always told my team and practice myself: If you find yourself spending a lot of time struggling to write an email, it’s often faster and more effective to pick up the phone.
It takes 5 minutes to have a direct conversation, solve the problem, and move forward with action. Email saves time, and time is money. It can also avoid miscommunication: With email, you can’t see their face and read their expression, so it can be hard to navigate a conversation easily.
People love to hear voices and have conversations.
This builds connectedness, deeper relationships, and trust. I told my team to create connections as often as possible. Pick up the phone, grab coffee, stop by a colleague’s desk, or take them to lunch.
In these days of being connected 24/7, there is nothing like having face-to-face conversations. You have a deeper connection because you can see their face and read their emotions, and react quickly. You can address projects more directly and, if there are issues, solve them quicker.
And the bonus of technology advances in videoconferencing means that you can do this even if your client is halfway around the world. In fact, I remember my first conversation with a brand-new client via WebEx.
She was in another state, so we had to kick off the project via a conference call. We used the WebEx video feature and it was fantastic. It was wonderful to see her—all smiles, full of energy, with a fabulous pair of glasses on—and it felt like she was literally across the table from me.
Recently, I was waiting for a 12:30 pm flight from San Francisco to Minneapolis on a Friday. As I sat at the gate waiting to board, I took a moment, looked around, and saw about 40 people standing, sitting, leaning, and waiting. And no one was talking. They were all looking down at their smart phones.
I know we’re all more connected than we’ve ever been before. But are we really connecting? Sometimes I wonder?