Karri T. Perez
President and business consultant, Leading Edge
Associate professor of global resources, University of Guam
With more and more ways to communicate, it has become a “quantity versus quality” issue. When traveling for business, it used to be difficult to disengage “chatty Cathy” seatmates on airplanes. Now it is hard to even get them to nod in your direction when you sit down only inches from them. With texting, email and other social media venues that require typing versus actual verbally communicating, I am beginning to worry that years from now we may evolve into no longer having vocal cords.
This year might be a good year to look at getting back to basics with interactions that include actually meeting our friends in person or talking to them on the phone.
How much of communication is written, verbal and nonverbal? Generally only a very small percentage (less than 10%) is written. Verbal, which includes, tone, speed of speech, and loudness is approximately 30%. The rest is non-verbal (approximately 60%). With communication shifting into texting and email, it is not difficult to see how more communication might equal more miscommunication.
It also depends on what you are communicating. Simple facts are easy to deliver in writing, and there is less confusion as people can look back at the written communication to refresh their memory on the information. A phone call is good when you need clarification or there is some confusion as to an issue. But to have a really rich and rewarding communication experience, nothing beats meeting someone in person and having a discussion.
The art of conversation is exactly that — it is an art. And unless you practice it and learn the basics and foundations of effective interpersonal relations, much of which is conversation and interaction, you may miss out on many of the fulfilling experiences you can have in business.
How to know you are using too much technology in your communications:
1) You consider “K” an appropriate response to a question from a vendor or client.
2) You consider meeting a client or customer for lunch a waste of time.
3) You consider posting announcements on Facebook as official notification of important events to business partners and your parents. This includes births, business successes or failures, engagements and divorces.
4) You have joined professional e-groups versus the groups that meet in person, even though you do business within 10 minutes of the members.
5) You cannot remember the last time you had a face-to-face business meeting.
6) You do not know where your clients and vendors have their offices, even though the address is on the same street.
7) You have never talked to or met your client’s or vendor’s staff.
8) You try to explain away a service or product issue to a customer through email instead of calling them or facing them.
9) When you talk you find you “can’t find the words” because you really do not talk much anymore.
10) You panic when you don’t have your cell phone with you.
One of the negative consequences of the new technologies is that we just do not meet people in person anymore. In public we are busy on our cell phones and there are no longer those uncomfortable silences in elevators or at bus stops that were filled by initiating conversations with strangers who then became business partners or personal friends.
Try this experiment: Leave your cell phone at home and go to the grocery store. Make eye contact with other shoppers and say, “Hi”. Ask other shoppers and the staff about different products. You will find you have a very different and much more pleasant experience.
What determines the quality of our lives (and business is a part of life) is the relationships we develop and our personal interactions with people we care about. Make this the year of quality interactions and building networks. Let’s revive the art of conversation.