Thursday, May 5, 2011

E-Tip#337: 4 Reasons to Emphasize Face-To-Face Communication

In 2005, Alison Stein Wellner wrote an article for Inc. Magazine about how face-to-face communication is becoming a "dying art" in the wake of e-mail, text messaging and other telecommunications technology. As part of her research for the article, Alison spoke to several academics and experts who have studied how businesses communicate and the pros and cons of both face-to-face communication and online communication.

We Just Had To Share This Information With You.

What these experts had to say was so fascinating and in the spirit of Dale Carnegie Training's own philosophies on communication, we just knew we had to share it. So we condensed the article into the four reasons for emphasizing face-to-face communication below, adding a dash of our own thoughts into the mix as well.

4 Reasons To Emphasize Face-To-Face Communication:

Reason #1. Keep Communication Skills Sharp:E-mail and online conversations can only take you so far. At some point, regardless of what type of business you run, you will need to pick up the phone or meet with someone face-to-face. But the more time you spend enmeshed in e-mail instead of communicating in person, the more those interpersonal communication skills dull. Naturally, weak face-to-face conversation skills pose a potential threat to the success of your business.

Reason #2. A More Effective Form Of Communication: According to UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian, reports Wellner, "55% of meaning in an interaction comes from facial and body language and 38% comes from vocal inflection. Only 7% of an interaction's meaning is derived from the words themselves." In other words, a tremendous amount of the subtle, nuanced aspects of communication we all rely upon are lost in e-mail. E-mail is purely words -- the 7 percent. As such, e-mail content runs a greater risk at being misunderstood than verbal communication does.

Reason #3. Causes Less Conflict In The Workplace: "People hide behind e-mail," Sara Roberts, president of Roberts Golden Consulting in San Francisco, told Wellner. This issue is common enough that most businesses can relate to it. Because there is a sense of detachment inherent to e-mail communication, a non-presence, people tend to be more uninhibited when e-mailing. With less skin in the game, so to speak, e-mailers are more inclined to sling insults and use so-called swear words, stirring trouble in the process.

Reason #4. Strengthens Work Relationships: Face-to-face communication is more conducive to team building and collaboration. That's not to say it is impossible to achieve team unity over the web, but nothing trumps in-person activity when it comes to holding in-depth conversations and discussing matters that are sensitive in nature. And as previously stated, body language, facial expressions, tone and inflection all contribute to dynamic, engaging discussions that simply can't be replicated over e-mail.

Click here to read Alison's original piece for Inc. Magazine.

The Virtual Business Dilemma.

More and more businesses are sprouting up that operate almost entirely virtually -- that is, all business is conducted over the web in some form. For these businesses, face-to-face communication is rarely, sometimes not ever an option. For such businesses, Jim Ball, co-founder of Alpine Access, offers the following advice:

§ Concentrate On Clarity: Make sure several people proof important e-mails, checking not only the grammar, but also the nuance of the language to ensure it isn't easily misconstrued.

§ Rely On Employees To Verify: Most e-mail clients have an option to sign an e-mail receipt acknowledging that they received and read the e-mail in question. This is especially useful for important internal communications.

§ Choose Communication Methods Wisely: Basically, know when an e-mail is and isn't appropriate. Phone conversations are still a viable option for virtual businesses when it comes to more involved communication.

Executive Summary: E-mail communication and its kind are vital tools for modern businesses -- no one is claiming otherwise. To truly get the most out of these tools, however, businesses need to strike a balance between online communication and face-to-face. The speed and convenience e-mail affords the transmission of direct, straightforward information is undeniably important. But equally as integral to a business' success is the intuitive complexity of face-to-face conversation.

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