In today’s digitally saturated world, texting, emailing, mobile messaging and social media interaction is the norm.
These modes of communication are efficient, quick, convenient and appealing in a business world that encourages greater productivity. But has the shift towards these new communication preferences come at a price?
Face-to-face communication has declined and telephone calls are a dying phenomenon. Text messaging in the US grew significantly from 14 billion in 2000 to 188 billion in 2010, and according to German firm Statista, in 2012, 2.2 trillion text messages were sent in the US.
A 2012 Pew Institute Survey found that 63 percent of teenagers in the US use text to communicate daily, while only 39 percent make and receive voice calls every day, and just 19 percent talk on landlines daily.
Adults too prefer to text message rather than make phone calls. It’s more convenient, less confronting, and likely to be cheaper.
Yet, according to audiology neuroscientist Seth Horowitz in an interview with Entrepreneur, we have evolved as listeners and not as readers. Listening comes far more naturally to humans than processing texts and emails.
Horowitz explains that “our ears have evolved, and a basic brain circuitry of hearing has evolved over 400 million years, and a lot of it centered on hearing the sound of your own species.”
“We’ve evolved to listen to other people talk,” he says.
Further, UCLA psychology professor, Dr Albert Mehrabian, found in his 1967 study, Inference of Attitudes from Nonverbal Communication in Two Channels, that effective communication involves three components – body language or facial expression (55%), intonation (38%) and the actual spoken words (7%).
So according to Mehrabian, 93 percent of effective communication involves seeing and hearing how the words are delivered.
Therefore, when it comes to communicating, face-to-face conversation and or placing a call are far more effective than texting, emailing and instant messaging.
Direct engagement provides clarity and reduces the opportunity for misinterpretation and the planting of doubts.
Without sighting body language and hearing vocal inflections it can be difficult to tell e-sarcasm from e-serious or e-busy from e-angry. Body language and the use of one’s voice however, provide nuance and hence, clarity.
Direct interaction with clients can also save time because it provides immediate feedback. It lets you instantly gauge your client’s reaction, feelings and attain a better understanding of any concerns they may have. Equally important, you may be able to address any issues on the spot.
A face-to-face approach also helps foster trust, a key ingredient in any successful client/firm relationship. Without direct human exchange, building trust and a meaningful and productive relationship with clients can be difficult.
And if you happen to be a keen user of web-, video-, and teleconferencing, these too, have their place.
But as the Forbes Insight Study, Business Meetings: The Case for Face-to-Face found, “business executives prefer face-to-face meetings and conferences over virtual meetings, and overwhelmingly agree that they are necessary for building deeper, more profitable bonds with clients and business partners”.
So next time you reach for your mobile to send off a text or activate your favourite messaging app, consider the value of face-to-face communication or making a call.
Maria Skettos is a Marketing and Public Relations Professional. She is the Principal of Skettos Marketing Communications and a sometime contributor.