The thing I love so much about technology is how easy it has become to connect with people at any point of my day. Just for fun, let’s look at your computer or phone. Count how many different applications you have that allow you to communicate with someone without having to physically be together. It’s amazing and overwhelming. Now consider how much can go wrong when you take the human presence out of interactions. High tech communication tools can become your worst nightmare if not balanced with live meetings. Interactions through text, email and social media are low touch. That’s why using them to communicate more serious topics, can be catastrophic to relationships. Digital platforms have become social weapons.
Weapon: a thing designed or used for inflicting harm or physical damage.
We’ve all been there. Instead of picking up the phone or meeting face to face, we decide to have a serious conversation over text or through email. What could go wrong? It’s a friend, our family, or maybe even a co-worker. We assume they know us well enough to know our tone or intentions. Why wait to see them when we can send a quick text. Besides, who wants to deal with the discomfort of live confrontation. Instead, we just flex those fingers and lace our commentary with plenty of emojis. That ensures no hurt feelings. If you’re like me, you probably don’t even think it’s a big deal, initially. Yet, 2 hours later, you realize you have lost all control of the tone and there just aren’t any words or GIF’s left to salvage the conversation. In reality, I have never looked back on a text or email argument with fond regard or anything more than sheer regret.
Emoji: The Sweetheart of Digital Interactions
Someone once told me that as long as you end your message with a smiley, you can say whatever you want. I got a great laugh from that one. I suppose it’s the technical version of the Southern Sandwich. Every southerner knows that if you kick off a sentence with “bless their heart” and end it with a nicety, you can say just about anything and make it sound genuine. “Bless her heart, that’s the ugliest dress I’ve ever seen. She is such a sweetheart, though.” That’s linguistic brilliance right there. Back to my original point, it’s very difficult to get a message across through a digital medium. Body language and expression are vital to effective communication. If we know that at least 65% of communication is non-verbal, it’s absurd to rely so heavily on these social platforms.
Technology Takes the Flavor of It’s User
Before you think I’ve become an advocate for ditching all technology, let’s also acknowledge the power of technology. I recognize how messaging platforms and email have made us more productive over time. In fact, I’m still pretty traumatized by the agony of note-taking in college. The hand cramps were a badge of honor. I can’t remember the last time I had to pen out a letter or take notes by hand. Convenience is a powerful motivator. Our businesses and careers thrive because of our ability to community quickly and effectively to large numbers of people.
The real solution is to turn these digital platforms into social weapons for good. The way we do that is by staying mindful of when technology is our friend and when it’s a foe. A good rule of thumb is to match your communication method with the level of sensitivity of your topic. In my experience, live interactions are always the most powerful. As Brene’ Brown says, “It’s hard to hate someone close up”. Face-to-face allows you to read body language, tone and make eye-contact. The next best thing is over the phone or a face-to-face app like Facetime or Skype. This allows you to hear a live voice with it’s tones and inflections. Voice recordings are ideal because you can listen without interruption (that’s a whole other topic)
Text is the lowest form of communication. However, it’s also the easiest. It’s perfect for passing simple information and logistics. If my message requires any form of emotion or feeling other than joy or encouragement, I will typically email someone the basic information and ask for a live conversation.
Tips to Avoid Social Warfare
- I never let more than three generations of communication through a texting platform happen before I make a live connection with someone.
- Accountability and relationships dissolve more quickly if you only communicate over a texting platform
- If someone sends a message to me where there is emotion involved or they are expressing feelings, I immediately suggest moving the conversation to a live one.
- Never rant on a texting platform.
Have the patience to wait out emotional rants. I’ve written many messages or emails as drafts, waited 1 to 2 days and then read it again from a different perspective. I also think it’s important not to let someone bully you into an immediate response to their own urgent feelings. I have found that how I feel is usually a reflection of my own thought life and emotional state. Tread lightly when blaming others for your feelings. While it’s true that people can hurt our feelings or cause us pain, intentions and motives aren’t always toxic. Be kind to each other. Even if another person wants to communicate over text, just keep in mind that the health of your relationships will be determined through live connections.
“Effective communication is the language of leadership”