Friday, July 29, 2016

Communication: When It Is Best To Meet Face-to-Face

Cartoon men are trying to communicate from different mountain tops with a megaphone, smoke signals, yelling, etc.

Technology is great. We now have many options for communication from smart phones to instant messaging to video conferences. But what have we lost when we are not communicating face-to-face and when should this be the preferred mode of interaction?

An important part of communications skills training is learning when meeting in person matters to the outcome, and when it’s OK to communicate by phone or via email. Understanding our physical and emotional reactions when we meet in person can help inform our choices about how we set up business meetings…on site or virtual. 

Here is what the scientists have to say about what goes on in our brains when we meet face-to-face. 

  • You can interpret the non-verbal messages.  A lot of what one person communicates to another is accomplished non-verbally…in body language and facial expressions. These can be missed if you’re talking on the phone. If you have some doubts about the sincerity of the person you are dealing with, you might learn a lot more about their feelings if you are in the same room.
  • The simple act of touching one another with a handshake greeting inspires trust. There is a part of the brain associated with rewards that lights up. When there is trust, we know that communication is enhanced…people just work together and understand one another better. If trust is a critical part of what you need for successful communication, say  in a job interview or initial sales meeting, then do your best to plan an in-person session.
  • You can convey emotion.  Though some excitement can be expressed over the phone with the words and tone you use, emotion is far more convincing when you are face-to-face. The receiver is apt to reflect the emotions of the giver. It is human nature. So when you want to encourage really positive feelings around something you care passionately about, meet in person.
  • Face-to-face meetings show you care about the relationship. The effort to schedule time to meet in person indicates how much you value the person or the topic. When it is important, do your best to meet face-to-face. All your senses will be engaged and you will notice and remember far more (they will too) than if you were just listening or talking from the familiarity of your own office.

Technology has increased the ways we can connect. But there are times when meeting virtually is a poor substitute for meeting in the old-fashioned  way…face-to-face.

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