Think about the last time you reached out to a member of your team.
Odds are, it was through email, text or some kind of instant message – but you may want to think twice. Even though it may be more convenient, employees are missing the days of short one-on-ones or face-to-face conversations.
“Today, we type out a sentence or two in an email and in a few minutes, we get a response,” Ellen O’Bannon, a former HR specialist for Sony Corporation of America, says. “We’ll never really know what we may have left on the table because we sent these messages in a vacuum, essentially sitting alone at our desks.”
If you’ve ever been caught in an unproductive chain of back and forth emails (or texts), you’ll agree there’s a time and a place for digital communication.
One of the biggest drawbacks is this: It’s hard to get the EQ (emotional intelligence) right in digital communication. It’s way too easy to misunderstand the tone or context. But when you’re having a face-to-face conversation, you can see how someone says something, with tones and pitches. You don’t get that in electronic communications.
The perks of face-to-face
Of course, you can’t walk into your office tomorrow and stop using email entirely. We’re creatures of habit, and there’s no doubt it’ll be tough to break people of certain behaviors. Plus, sometimes email is the better way to go. After all, some of your staff may remember when email first took off!
Facilitate personal communication with your team with these simple changes:
- When you’re looking for a simple “yes” or “no” answer, email may seem like the right choice. But just know – that’s likely all you’re going to get: a one-worded answer. A little extra information can’t hurt, so walk over to the person and ask the question. Not only will you have an answer right off the bat, but you’ll have the context, which may help tackle any questions or problems that pop up.
- Use your email to suggest a quick 5-minute meeting. More often than not, people appreciate the quick face-to-face talk, rather than a lengthy email thread. Why? Two reasons: They know they’ll reach a resolution faster and it’s another item they can get off their to-do list faster.
- Try to switch back and forth when paying a compliment. After you’ve sent praise through email, aim to give the next compliment in person. Let’s be honest, there’s no wrong way to pay a compliment. But the act of getting up, walking to someone’s desk and physically expressing your gratitude truly speaks volumes. Plus, a more public gesture will show your other members of the team how much you appreciate hard work.
- If you want to make new contacts, face-to-face is the way to go. People are so used to socializing and networking through social media that real-life relationships have taken the backseat. Be the person who goes against the tide and initiates a conversation in-person.
While technology has been a big help in terms of productivity over the years, there are times when it just can’t substitute for a real-life conversation. Try mixing more in-person interactions into your day and see how it impacts your productivity and relationships.