Do you have face-to-face conversations everyday? You can probably count them on one hand. Now think about the alternative, online discussions, how many hands do you need now as you are counting? It is not too late to reclaim face-to-face conversations.
If you are caught in a loop of sending emails, texting, private messages or direct message and the occasional phone call, here is what you are missing out on.
There is not a week goes by that I do not have at least one random conversation, face-to-face with a person that I have never met before. It can be waiting in line at the checkout or waiting in line for my lunch. And even more shockingly, if I need something from individuals in the same office, I get out of my chair and go see them in person. This is not just meaningless small talk. It is also meaningful, whereby I have held my lunch in my hand, and listened to individuals, that desperately need to be heard. And so few hear them sometimes. What is in it for me I hear you ask. The joy of listening to another individual. There is richness in language, appreciation for difference and acceptance of life, everyone’s life.
Why prioritise face-to-face conversations:
- There is nothing more powerful in the delivery or receipt of a message, seeing the other person. Communication is more than the spoken or written word. Without seeing a person in front of you, there may be context, meaning and questions that you may not express, understand or appreciate.
- Invisibility leads to miscommunication. Talking in person is not always convenient or fast, but it can be more helpful, than the ‘invisible’, online. A message from one person to the other is supported not only spoken language, but the unspoken. Not everyone is articulate, in the expression of their ideas and thoughts. Many individuals express much more through their body. It may look like; eye contact or lack of it, a glance, emotional tone, the way they may sit or stand, the way they use their body in a conversations, hand gestures for example, or even silence. Welcome silence as it can give you more knowing, that that which preceded it.
- Actions derived from face-to-face conversation occur more quickly. Learning as a direct result of a conversation, supports action. This learning is uniquely different when it is in this context. Therefore when you converse with an individual face-to-face, the encouragers to action include; being able to give appropriate feedback, clarification and questioning. The very nature of face-to-face conversations evokes different skills within you. You may become more confident and competent.
Transaction or Relationship
Communication is often described as a simple transaction. Someone speaks the other person listens and then they take turns, until they are both satisfied with the outcomes, their own and any collaboration. Perhaps there will also be dissatisfaction. Do you think it is more than this?
All too often when it comes to communication articles instruct about what NOT to do, or other themes like how to minimise conflict. I acknowledge that there can be disadvantages to face-to-face conversations, which include conflict and misunderstanding. No one form of communication is going to provide the enough protective factors to eliminate this. However through face-to-face conversations, skills in the delivery and receiving of messages will grow supporting appropriate future communication.
There is evidence to suggest that there are numerous advantages that just cannot be ignored. If I think about raising children, the concept of language was a simple one, at first. However it changed over the years. How can young people understand how powerful and dynamic conversation is, if they have no forum to hear, learn or practice real conversation? Having always spoken to children, age appropriately of course, using realistic language and being courageous in challenging conversations; I continue to see the benefits first-hand. Learning about the art of conversation, is something best led by parents. It is a life skill that is required by each of us, and when it is not developed, it can have long lasting detrimental effects for the individual.
Some may argue that the increase in modes of technology, have eliminated the need for face-to-face, what are your thoughts that statement?
I would disagree, I cannot foresee a time, whereby face to face conversation will be extinct. I will never stop initiating conversations, it matters.
Conversation is more than just talking. At the core of each of us, is a desire for connection. This connection is deeply biological as I have spoken about in other articles, and it cannot be dismissed or else you risk unmet needs, frustration and unhappiness. Have you ever just sat with someone and laughed so hard, as a result of your conversation, you held onto each other, or had physical contact. Do you remember what that was like, what you got out of that?
I can only assume that every cell in your body was lit up like a set of Christmas lights on Christmas Eve. That deep connection threaded through your being. The bond with the individual strengthened by connection in physical and emotional meaning.
At the core of communication apart from connection, is a ‘relationship’ it’s definition can sometimes be ambiguous. However with each individual we spend time with, there is a relationship. It may only be short term or situational. It is a relationship all the same. Each will leave a legacy that supports continuing communication with others.
It may arise out of respect or disrespect, no matter the interaction, there will be something each individual will leave the other with, in the delivery of future conversations. And quite possibly the next person you meet, will benefit (or not) from what was influenced. Conversation as the old adage suggest, is an art. It provides a forum for each of you in the right setting, the opportunity to be yourself, speak truth and build relationships. You can better view your worlds through a variety of lenses as opposed to your own personal biases or constrained thinking. Choice and competence grow, as does vocabulary, expression and most of all, listening skills.
Reclaiming face-to-face conversations is not impossible. It will become second nature, the more you do it. As you see the real benefits, or even experience challenges, your learning and confidence to talk will grow. It is a matter making it a priority and planning to take the time necessary to do it. The benefits far outweigh any real or perceived irritations. So the next time you are in your home, or indeed the office and the individual that you want to communicate with is in the same building, stand up and make taking the next steps to face-to-face conversation a priority, put down the email and be courageous, go see them in person.