In Communication, Nothing Beats the Personal Touch

Good morning! I hope your day is starting off well.

My day is starting off with snow – the first real snow of the season. It’s pretty. It’s like a white blanket lovingly placed over the entire area. It’s a visual reminder of the blanket on my bed. And much like the indoor blanket, it beckons me to immerse myself in it. It’s peaceful. It’s pretty. Now it can go away.

It’s on days like this that I enjoy having the option to work from home. I could do it any day of the week, and some of the folks on my team do it every day. But I enjoy being around people, so I usually go into the office anyway. Text messaging is almost as fast as live communication, but it leaves a certain element of intimacy on the table.

Odd that I would use a word like intimacy to describe my interaction with co-workers. Say that to the wrong person and you’ll get an invitation to visit Human Resources. More like a directive. But you folks know what I mean, and so do the people I work with. I just like that personal touch. It’s hard to communicate when you can’t see the person to whom you’re speaking. And vice versa.

How often have you read an email or text message and thought, “What did he mean by that?” It could be as simple as, “Did you finish that assignment yet?” That could mean a few things. On one extreme, it’s a simple question – just a check on your progress. At the other extreme, it’s a loaded question with predetermined consequences just waiting for the wrong answer. You just never know.

One of the things I loved the most about performing stand-up comedy is that I could write funny stuff and then deliver it to my audience in the way it was intended. There was no question in their mind what I was trying to say, because I had the advantage of all the other elements of communication – tone, inflection, facial expressions, body language, and most importantly, immediate feedback.

It’s not that I don’t like text messaging or email. I think both have an increasingly important role in the workplace. It allows companies to seek out talent across the entire nation and beyond, instead of relying on what’s available locally. And it gives those individuals with all the right skills the ability to accept a job without uprooting the family and moving someplace they never wanted to live.

But it’s easy to become so reliant on electronic communication that face-to-face communication becomes “old school.” I see a lot of posts online where parents bemoan the fact that a lot of schools are no longer teaching cursive writing. Okay, it’s mostly the grandparents complaining about that, but you get the point. It’s like handing kids a calculator and telling them to forget about math.

We want kids to learn the old-school manual ways of doing things, for good reason. There will be times in life when it’s good to know, and other times when they can’t solve a problem without it. You know, like when the calculator breaks or they get a letter from Grandma in cursive.

But when it comes to communication, we’ve become increasingly reliant on technology to do the job for us. We send emojis. We send GIFs. We write text messages with word abbreviations nobody has ever heard of, and punctuation that would make our English teacher cry. We send those messages to our managers and directors, and then wonder why our career isn’t going anywhere. Duh!

A few days ago, I met with my Senior VP. It was a meeting I requested, simply to put a face with the name. It’s hard to gauge sincerity and intent when all you’ve got are black letters on a white background. But when you’re sitting on the other side of the desk, you can both get a better feel for what the other person is thinking. That’s more than just important – it’s critical.

I know, a lot of people my age are reluctant to jump into the whole “virtual presence” thing. Maybe age has a lot to do with it. But I still believe nothing beats that personal touch. Whether it’s stopping by somebody’s desk, or picking up the phone, personal communication will always beat electronic communication. Besides, it gives you a chance to smile. And it gives them a chance to smile back.

I’m not saying we should shun electronic communication. It has its place, and that place seems to be ever increasing. But, whenever you have the chance, go for the personal approach. Pick up the phone. Pop your head over the cubicle wall. Walk to the other person’s desk, or go knock on their door. Besides, it’s the only way you can get a hug. Hmmm. And now HR is calling. Gotta run!

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved