It can be argued that no single invention has changed the way mankind functions more than the smartphone. No matter where we are, we can make a phone call or search the internet, giving us world-wide connectivity from virtually anywhere. But for every advantage that comes with smartphones, there are an equal number of drawbacks. The biggest irony is summed up perfectly by blogger Aaron Crowther when he says, the problem with being connected is that we are not connecting.
Looking for a college major that didn’t require much math, I chose to study Communications. At the time of choosing this major, I still hadn’t determined what I wanted to be when I grew up and honestly didn’t even know what “communications” would translate to in the real working world.
I figured it meant I’d learn how to talk to people while improving my grammar skills, things that would serve me well in any endeavor I’d choose to follow in the future. Little did I realize the importance of communication - and the dearth of it - in today’s world.
Much like money and sunshine, you can never have enough good communication in your life. Use these five tips to help you improve the lost art of communication.
Prioritize face-to-face conversation
We have gotten complacent over the past ten to twenty years. It’s easier (and quicker) to send someone a text, messenger or email than to take the time to talk with them in person. But what we fail to realize is that non-verbal communication and voice tone, the cues not seen though digital communication, are the most important part of communication.
According to Dustin Hebets of TTI Success Insights, the 50/40/10 rule applies*. About 50% of communication is the non-verbals (gestures, eye contact, mannerisms, proximity of the speakers), around 40% is attributed to tone and inflection and only 10% of communication is based on the actual words used. Without experiencing these important mannerisms, gestures, tone-of-voice changes and more, we may not fully comprehend the other person’s message. Talking face-to-face eliminates the guesswork and allows for clarification if anything might have otherwise been misunderstood.
When you are having a face-to-face conversation with someone, it’s important to remain present in the moment. Put the cell phone away. If it’s on the table, it will be a distraction. If the phone rings, let it go to voicemail. If the call is important, take it briefly and offer to call the person back in the near future, giving the person in front of you your attention. In communication, the face-to-face conversation is still king.
Choose phone calls over texts
It’s not too much more difficult to dial a person’s number and speak to them live compared with sending them a text message. For all the reasons listed above regarding non-verbal communications, at least being able to hear the person’s tone of voice can help be an indicator of whether or not your message is getting across.
If nothing more, the extra effort of making a phone call shows you care about the other person. Texts can be very mechanical. Putting the effort into making the phone call will earn respect from the person on the other end of the line. Make it a point to call just two more people a week than you do now, and see how that positively impacts your relationships.
Choose texts over social posts
For all the negative things mentioned above about texts, sending someone a personalized text message, especially to just say hello or to wish them a happy birthday, is still more meaningful than posting a (usually prompted) robotic greeting on social media. What can be less meaningful than someone who quickly posts “HBD” on Facebook, because they were too busy to spell out the full words? When I see this, my initial thought is...why bother?
While nothing replaces face-to-face conversation, the more personal the conversation, the better. If you can’t be there in person, make the phone call. If you simply don’t have time to make the call, at least make the effort to send a personalized text. Keep communication human!
Don’t rely on social media for relationship building
Facebook just notified me that I just reached my ten-year anniversary on the platform. Milestones such as that naturally tend to put a person in a reflective mode. When I first joined Facebook, I thought about the limitless possibilities of connecting with old friends, making new ones, maybe even befriending a life-long musical hero or two.
As I reflected, I realized that most of the past ten years on Facebook were filled with the following life-changing experiences, including:
Enduring hundreds of “way too close up” selfies
Pictures of people’s food
The ice bucket challenge
Calls for me to “go fund” people’s hobbies
Guilt-inducing posts proclaiming “I’ll bet you won’t share this” (you’re right)
And my personal favorite...the popular Facebook political commentaries where everyone is an expert despite the fact that no one has actually ever been in politics.
When you add the complete obliteration of the English language that seems to be widely pervasive on social media (refer to the epidemic known as “their, there and they’re,” or the mind boggling difficulty with “your and you’re”), it makes me realize that I’m getting a lot less value from this platform than I originally envisioned. Maybe it’s time to start actually talking to people again.
Many social media sites serve a definite purpose in the realm of promotion. But when it comes to relationship building, nothing beats a real, live conversation between two or more humans.
It’s better to over communicate than to under communicate
We are all in a hurry. We want to be quick and concise and move onto the next task. But how many times a day do we sacrifice detail for speed? For those familiar with the behavioral-style indicator known as DISC, I am a 96D and a 2S - no one on Earth appreciates speed and brevity as much as I do. However, when communication is too brief or too quick, it often fails. Take the time to be sure the person you are communicating with fully understands what you are trying to say - the first time. You’ll save time in the long run.
The value of people skills
You don’t appreciate the value of good people skills until you stop to realize what a lost art it has become. I was recently reminded of this when calling an unnamed cable company. After four different conversations on four different days with four different people, my issue remains unsolved.
By contrast, when I needed to cancel an insurance policy on the same day, the extremely personable rep on the other end of the line addressed my concerns in a professional manner in just a few short minutes. I was so impressed (and frankly, surprised) that I took the time to fill out one of those annoying “after-call” surveys because I’m just no longer used to receiving great service via phone. Good service shouldn’t be the exception, it should be the norm.
We are currently living through a communication breakdown that now spans generations and affects people worldwide. For all the attention paid to robots, AI and other technological innovations, nothing is more important than people skills and the art of good communication. Be part of the solution by picking up the phone and calling someone today where you otherwise may have just sent an email. Do it again tomorrow and the next day. Once you make a habit of putting people first, you’re very likely to see significant positive changes in your life.
*According to Hebets, the numbers are actually closer to 55% non-verbals, 38% tone/inflection and 7% the actual words, but for most people, 50/40/10 is simply easier to remember.