Let’s discuss the illusion that we communicate better because we have more tools at our disposal.
Recently I saw a demonstration for a new messenger application.
The person who hosted the training session knew his subject matter.
In a short sprint, he covered all the basics of the tool.
But he missed one key aspect associated with communication tools— The one critical thing that nobody ever seems to ask— “When this channel for communication fails, what is the alternative?”
To explain this, let me take you back to 1977.
My parents permitted me to use the telephone for the first time.
That was a momentous occasion.
But I realized something quite quickly!
The technology was there, but people often didn’t answer the phone.
Sometimes they were outside— or simply not at home.
Of course, this was before messages and answering machines.
What’s the bottom line of this story? When someone didn’t pick up on the other side, the only alternative was to drive over and sort out the problem in person.
That’s how it was. No other alternative existed.
And we managed to get things done.
In the era of modern communication, I get the impression we are reluctant to ask— “When this channel for communication fails, what is the alternative?”
I couldn’t reach you via email, so I left a WhatsApp message.
But you didn’t respond, so I tried getting hold of you on Teams.
That didn’t work either, so I messaged you on Slack.
My last resort was Zoom.
But you were off the grid.
I couldn’t get hold of you!
I spent a few years teaching English in the “pre-internet” days.
One lesson was paramount.
If you wanted the children to do something before home time you had to make a public announcement— get them all in one spot, speak to them in person, and hope to high heaven they wouldn’t forget.
If you didn’t plan something properly before the close of business— it didn’t happen the next day.
That was the end of it.
That seems like a lot of effort! Believe me— it was!
But the human connection remained intact.
Interestingly enough. I know a manager who does the same thing within this era— where we are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a communication method.
Before his team knocks off for the day, he catches up with them and makes time to see how everyone is doing.
They still do it remotely, for the greater part.
It became a routine, often taking up less than a few minutes if there weren’t any pressing matters.
He said that some of his peers negatively commented on this.
“How do you justify spending so much time on that?”
The standard reply is always— “We have all this stuff for communicating.” “If it doesn’t save us time— What is it good for?”
“If a human connection becomes a waste of time— The company is experiencing a serious crisis with communication— and time is the least of our issues!”
What are your thoughts?
Have we become so drenched and saturated with info that we are tuning out legitimate contact as also being a waste of time?
The manager I mentioned earlier was the same guy who would walk around just before the close of business to greet his team— in pre-pandemic times— often with nothing more than a wave and “Laters.”
The human element is an investment— and never a waste of time.
Those who understand that will also be the people who respect your time— especially after hours,