Communication is critical in every relationship, personal or professional. But we’ve stopped talking. We email, text, WhatsApp, send messages via apps like Slack, ‘like’, ‘comment’ or otherwise ‘engage’ with… but we’ve stopped actually talking and the art of conversation is dying!
In business, this is having a massive impact on the relationships employees and management hold and creating a plethora of unnecessary issues that could easily be remedied if we stopped hiding behind technology and using it to do the talking for us.
As a business mentor, when I broach this with clients, I am often told “it’s easier” or “it creates a paper trail” or “it’s just what everybody does” but if we communicated more personally by talking to one another, efficiency would improve because you can cover off in one five minute conversation, something that may take 10 emails back and forth to nail. Having something in writing is very important so write one email confirming the conversation you have just had! If efficiency improved, it would make everybody’s roles easier and would help build trust in those relationships. This doesn’t mean nothing will ever go wrong but it does mean you have built a rapport with someone who you can then talk to.
Whether the relationship is internal or external, between manager and subordinate, peer-to-peer or between any other stakeholders within the organisation, without proper communication, there exists only a very surface level transactional relationship that simply cannot deliver the best for any business.
Our heavy reliance on tech-based communications ‘solutions’ removes so many fundamental factors that form ‘good communication’. We can no longer see sincerity, properly interpret tonality, convey emotion or show empathy. It creates a closeted façade that fuels anxiety both inside and outside of the workplace. Comments get misunderstood and we lose the associated feeling, all the things that are a necessary foundation for good relationships.
Being able to see body language and hear tone and actually listen is essential from the very moment you start a job. I mentored a young man who was struggling with interdepartmental relationships. Emails were going back and forth from the creative department to the tech department (bear in mind, they were in the same office with an isle separating them) and mistakes were being made. Not because they didn’t know how to do their respective jobs but because of misunderstandings and they never walked across the room to speak with each other! Putting these two in a room together to discuss the last 5 months’ worth of issues was a revelation to them. The biggest issue was that one was a Director and the other an assistant tech expert who felt that he could not speak to someone so high up! The Creative Director also only spoke with the Head of Tech about these mistakes, which would get resolved but left a young man feeling anxious and vulnerable. This changed the minute they started a conversation and the director is now an internal mentor to this tech assistant – they are now talking!
It’s easy for most of us to understand why the ‘highlights reel’ of Instagram might add pressure to young people trying to fit in and striving for a ‘perfect’ life. But we struggle so much more to apply that same theory to communication in the work place; this is why not communicating properly can create unnecessary pressure, worries and concern across all levels of an organisation.
Fifteen years ago, it was common for me to hear from clients that organisations were too reliant on meetings; “let’s have a meeting about organising a meeting” was a frequent eye-roller. This still applies today but now it’s more about how people don’t communicate properly in those meetings and how nothing really gets resolved. This is all part of the same problem and today it is more common that I hear about the failures in communication because people aren’t having a conversation. Their ‘relationships’ are all built over email or some other tech platform that replaces actually talking to one another. And the art of communication is thus being lost and being able to show empathy for someone in the workplace is sadly missing.
Social and tech-based communications inevitably have their place in most modern organisations, but they must come as support functions to actual relationships, which are built through real, good old fashioned, transparent communication.
Let’s get talking to each other.