Communicating with others has never been easier than it is right now. Tried and tested methods such as emails and texting have allowed for quick and widespread communication for some time, and new technologies are only improving upon this.
Messaging apps let you rifle off a message in mere seconds, not to mention that you can send a group message to multiple people at once. Video conferencing platforms make face-to-face conversations possible even when two people are a country apart. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, entire companies have continued to meet face-to-face over these calls. Who would have thought ten years ago that you would be able to see and speak to fifty people simultaneously from your couch?
There has to be a catch, right? Well, there is.
While advancements are always designed to make communication easier (faster, farther-reaching, etc.) they don’t always improve the quality of communication.
One thing that new forms of communication tend to stray away from is the benefits of face-to-face communication, such as the ability to ask questions in real time, quickly clear up confusion, and read body language and tone. Whether it is taking away the physical aspect of a conversation and putting it on a screen, or removing the personal attention of a one-on-one interaction when a message is sent to a group, the need for efficiency is often placed ahead of the need for quality interactions.
The point of this article is not to tell you to avoid communication advancements, because at the end of the day they are considered an advancement for a reason. They have an array of benefits. The point of this article is to recall the importance of face-to-face communication and the methods of doing so that are often overshadowed by the effortlessness of newer forms of communication.
Let’s go through a few situations where you must be able to effectively communicate, and what role face-to-face communication tactics can play.
Eliminating Confusion in Group Work
Any current or former student is probably quite familiar with the fabled group project. You likely have some horror stories to tell as well. Somebody slacked off, somebody took your topic, somebody wrote the opposite of what they were supposed to write. The thing about group projects is that they are becoming less about a group. Shared documents and emails let students complete a group project without ever needing to meet. It sounds convenient, but this can easily lead to miscommunication.
This may be bringing back bad memories, but the truth is that this applies to work as well, and you really don’t want miscommunication to hurt you when you have a big deadline approaching.
Plain and simple, the last thing you want when you are working with others is confusion, and the easiest way to avoid this is to speak directly to them. The student who wrote about the wrong topic probably would not have made this mistake if the group sat down and discussed what each person was doing.
Even relying on emails can lead to issues in a collaborative effort. Responses may be untimely, and meaning may not be properly expressed or interpreted through a screen. The best way to guarantee that everyone is on the same page is to have a direct conversation. This way you can ask questions and ensure that everyone understands each other before going off on your own.
To go a step further, actively work together. Find a good collaborative space, and work on the project with your group. If confusion occurs at any time, your group is together and can discuss it immediately.
Active communication and collaboration don’t just prevent confusion, they provide other benefits as well:
- It helps everyone stay accountable for their part
- It is easier to keep up with deadlines when everyone is on the same page
- If someone runs into a problem, others can switch gears and get it solved
Can’t work together in person? This is where advancements in communication really help. Video conferencing software makes it easy to work with others in a different location.
Communicating with Clients
If you don’t want confusion with your co-workers, you definitely don’t want it between you and your clients. The last place you want to be is in the middle of a big sale or project and realize that you and your client’s expectations are not adding up. Because of this, it is every bit as important to directly interact with your clients as it is with your co-workers.
At Office Interiors, we have multiple conversations with clients throughout our to make sure that information is always clear. A simple conversation can communicate complex ideas and decisions much more effectively than a chain of emails or a game of phone tag.
Another benefit of communicating directly with clients is that it can improve the impression you make on them – talk about an added benefit! Think about the last time you went shopping and asked an employee where to find something. Did they tell you it was in aisle three, or did they walk over and show you where it was on the shelf?
Receiving a little more attention is always appreciated by clients and lets them know that you are truly concerned with helping them. Speaking directly with a client when you could have simply emailed is just like taking the time to walk through the store rather than pointing out the aisle.
Choosing to speak in person rather than over the phone takes it one more step and really shows a client that you are willing to go out of your way to assist them and could even be what sets you apart from competitors.
Providing Your Team with Feedback
A conversation between employer and employee is one of the most important interactions that will happen within the walls of an office. Proper input and feedback can stop an error ahead of time and provide the guidance that keeps a project on track. A conversation this big deserves, and requires, the utmost effort.
As in our first two examples, confusion is your enemy. The very point of many conversations between employer and employee is to eliminate confusion, so why add the possibility of more confusion? Relying on an email chain to discuss important details of an assignment can lead to more misinterpretation than speaking in person, where you can ask questions or paraphrase statements and ensure everyone is on the same page. Everyone understands things differently, your department-wide email could have ten interpretations!
Another thing to remember about emails and phone calls is that they do not express tone, and certainly not body language, as well as a face-to-face conversation. This is another factor that leads to speaking in person being a much less confusing medium. You will almost certainly be able to tell how important someone values something from their tone and the gestures they use while speaking about it, but you will likely only pick up on this importance over email if they literally write “this is the most important part”.
Face-to-face conversations are also a manager’s chance to learn too, not just the employee. It is important to let your employees know what you need of them, but also for them to let you know what they need of you. Sitting down and having a conversation is the best way for this information to be shared. As mentioned, having a proper conversation facilitates question asking and going back and forth more than an email, and phone calls can also hide the true importance of what an employee has to say.
Finally, much like speaking with a client, a face-to-face chat can make an employee feel so much more important than an email. Especially in large companies, it is good to remind employees that they are noticed and that their contributions are making an impact.
If you want some more tips speak effectively with your team, check out this article by Forbes.
There you have it, the importance of person-to-person communication. But of course, don’t count out other forms of communication. Everything has a purpose, and every form of communication has benefits in the workplace. You probably wouldn’t be reading this article right now if it weren’t for the ever-popular blog format (that is, unless you happened to buy the magazine it was published in instead). If you want to share this article with a co-worker however, we challenge you to tell them about it in person!
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