One-to-One Conversation: RIP

I was recently at lunch with a smart and diverse group of 20 and 30 something’s.

During the conversation someone said email was no longer useful – or at least more of an ‘old school’ resource which is being replaced by Instant Messaging (IM). I might add they were also sharing how sad there was so little one-on-one discussion anymore.Rest In Peace

I let the conversation go for a while – then, after about 10 seconds I agreed IM was great for some things – but not great for others. I also outlined a few of emails’ virtues and shortcomings (please read my blog post Email Is Great For This – Not Great For That).

So in this blog post I will share my perspective on the downfall of one-to-one communication. I don’t think it’s the fault of email or IM. I actually believe technology is making communication easier than ever. The problem is how and when we’re using technology.

I recall watching re-runs of Leave it to Beaver episodes (the beacon of the Great American Family), where Mr. Cleaver had his nose stuck in the morning paper at the breakfast table. And I’ve also recently witnessed a whole family order, eat dinner and leave a restaurant while each of them were glued to their BlackBerry or gaming instrument.

If technology isn’t the problem – what is? I think there are a few – so here are three:

  1. Sometimes we’re a bit lazy and don’t make the effort to get out of our chairs or pick up the phone. Instead we send an email or IM.
  2. I think we’re over-concerned with the email ‘audit trail’, therefore, we use email when it isn’t the best tool. IM is not great for this – the exceptions are some in-house IM systems.
  3. I believe we use technology to hide – this is especially true if we have to deliver tough news. Technology is certainly the wrong tool for delivering tough news.

Lets not miss the irony in us blaming technology for the end of one-to-one conversation when we are the ones running for electronic cover.

What’s the solution to increase interpersonal relationships and to get conversation back in our daily activities?

Well, as managers and leaders I believe it’s our responsibility to set examples on when – and how to communicate effectively. Managers and leaders (not the HR manual), need to introduce corporate and department values to the people in their care. Furthermore, they need to demonstrate what appropriate and expected behaviour looks like (supported by examples), about how to deliver these values every time they communicate with clients, suppliers or their co-workers.

Exceptional communication experiences are always possible – and sometimes that will be via one-to-one communication – other times it will be via systems like voice mail, email or IM.

We have great resources available to us, we just need to know when and how to use them. When we do use the right tools at the right times we begin to consistently deliver Exceptional Customer Service and that’s when we start running circles around our competitors.

Just sayin’

Happy communication and email writing. 

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About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

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