A colleague of mine recently shared an experience she had at her doctor’s office. When she walked up to the window to check in, the young receptionist motioned with her finger pointing to the iPad on the counter and said, “please check in here,” without taking her eyes off her cell phone. My colleague began asking her a couple of questions about the check-in process and the young gal remained fixated on her cell phone without once making eye contact during the verbal exchange.
Today’s generation is socially challenged with the constant distraction of electronic devices and social media dominating our everyday lives. Does the convenience and pervasiveness of technology excuse poor basic human behavior? Certainly not. So how can we be more thoughtful and courteous to those around us?
Critical Social Skills Component
Face-to-face communication is an integral piece of the social skills puzzle. It’s time to get back to basics with clear and precise communication — something that has been lost little by little as technology such as smart phones, texting and email have permeated today’s society. There’s a lot you can glean from looking someone in the eyes, and a lot that can be missed if you don’t. There’s a personal connection there that you just can’t get over the phone, via text or even FaceTime. It’s so personal, in fact, that many of today’s young people shy away from such an intimate display of human interaction.
Your clothing, hair accessories, posture and gestures can all convey a deep meaning, but it’s your eyes that send messages as well, and failure to maintain solid eye contact with an associate, client or boss can prevent you from building critical business relationships, says Inc. Eye contact cues are subtle, to be sure, but they can make all the difference when trying to read the other party’s emotions, from approval to disdain to any other emotion on the spectrum that can’t be determined from an email.
A business venture or collaboration, such as negotiating a merger or even asking your boss for a raise, can balance precariously on how you handle a face-to-face conversation. You wouldn’t ask for that raise with your face in your phone, and you certainly wouldn’t negotiate a big business deal or merger over email. That’s why the personal connection is crucial for conducting insightful discussions of mutual interest — something that was just par for the course before the telephone was even invented, points out ToughNickel. The art of conversation has largely been lost, dragging down our social skills in the process.
Tips for Meaningful Face-to-Face Conversations
There are many benefits that come with face-to-face human interaction, resulting in encounters and relationships that can’t be achieved remotely. From visual feedback and cultural differences to body language and eye contact, it becomes easy to understand the true value of what another is saying when you meet in person. Not only do face-to-face meetings build stronger, more meaningful business relationships, they allow for better social opportunities to bond with clients and coworkers. In addition, these meetings boost the ability to read body language and facial expressions as well as interpret nonverbal communication signals, says the Houston Chronicle. Recent studies have shown that face-to-face communication is optimal when it comes to persuasion, leadership, engagement, inspiration, decision-making, accountability and reaching a consensus.
If you have been finding that your face-to-face interaction skills are starting to erode, here are some ways you can make the most of your in-person meetings:
- Pay attention to visual feedback.
- Listen to what’s being said and ask questions if you don’t understand something.
- If you are the one speaking, pay attention to body language that might indicate disinterest or confusion.
- If you sense disinterest or confusion, respond to those visual cues by switching gears, or giving the other person the floor.
Just like any muscle, these skills take practice. From sales to customer service to boardroom meetings, face-to-face communication is vital in keeping the pulse of human interaction pumping. Let’s not lose sight of what’s truly important in business and in personal relationships as well: communication and connection. That’s what drives progress and success, something that can’t be achieved when hiding behind a phone.