Why Face-To-Face Communication Still Makes Sense

May 13, 2011

By John Torre

Forty years ago, in 1971, I wonder how many people had a vision of communication in 2011 that included cell phones, text messages, email, and webcams?

My guess would be none or not many.

Yet here we are in 2011 doing all those things and more. Aside from the telephone, you know how people communicated in 1971? They talked to each other face-to-face! 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 emerging telecommunications technology.  As part of her research she spoke to several academics and experts who have studied how businesses communicate, as well as the pros and cons of both face-to-face communication and online communication.

What these experts had to say mirrored Dale Carnegie Training’s own philosophies on communication. Here’s the gist of the article condensed into four main headings:

Keeps Communication Skills Sharp — E-mail and online conversations are limited in scope and can only take you so far.  Regardless of what type of business you run, you will inevitably need to pick up the phone or—preferably—meet with someone face-to-face.  Communicating in person is critical to honing your interpersonal skills. And honestly, there are many business people that won’t communicate any other way.

Encompasses Other Forms Of Communication — Ms. Wellner reported that according to UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian, “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.” That means a tremendous amount of the subtle, nuanced aspects of communication we all pick up on in face-to-face discussions are lost in e-mail.  E-mail represents the 7 percent of an interaction’s meaning mentioned above. Consequently, content runs a greater risk of being misunderstood than verbal communication does.

Reduces Conflict In The Workplace — Sara Roberts, president of Roberts Golden Consulting in San Francisco, told Wellner that “People hide behind e-mail.” And it’s the truth. It’s a lot easier to shoot off an email and tell someone what you think of them than it is when you’re looking them straight in the eye. Why is this? There is a sense of detachment inherent to e-mail communication where people tend to be more uninhibited.

Strengthens Work Relationships — Team building, long a staple of Dale Carnegie Training, is more conducive to face-to-face communication. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible to achieve team unity by other means, but nothing trumps in-person interactivity when it comes to holding in-depth conversations and discussing sensitive matters.  Body language, facial expressions, tone and inflection all contribute to dynamic, engaging discussions that simply can’t be replicated via today’s electronic means of communication.

This post brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie New Jersey.  We would love to connect with you on Facebook.

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