Monday, September 30, 2013

The New Glossophobia - Texting vs. Speaking Face-To-Face

Is there a risk of losing oral communication skills? I find it more difficult to communicate orally sometimes. A conversation can get off track and I might forget some of the points I had hoped to make. Laying it out in a letter, I can make sure I get my points across.

Walter Woodman may have some good points to think about in his movie, Noah. However, I still think he is likely missing something based on this quote:

"If you want a man to be honest, then give him a mask, turn the lights off, let nobody know who he is, and he doesn't have to worry about what you think about him... People are going to start to value honest connections more and more."
Catfish is a great example of masks not resulting in honesty. (There is even a Catfish TV show).

Using text can be an "easy" way to say difficult things without having to deal with someone's response. Sure, people will continue to break up by text message. Like a "Dear John" letter, you don't have to deal with the repercussions of that message, which could be ugly. You can then block the number...

But this strategy backfires when you will have an ongoing relationship with a person. In which case, you need to actually deal with someone's emotional response. You can't take the easy way out, because you can't get out.

When you will need to deal with an emotional response, this is more effectively done in person. Sensitive subjects require the ability to have a discourse, to read body language and other non-verbal communication. Emails and text messages can be misunderstood, and I have learned from experience to avoid email for certain kinds of messages.

Etiquette, and the complexity of human interaction may perpetuate a practice of in-person communication for some types of messages. It's hard to match the in-person approach for bonding and trust-building. Also, for delicate messages, like terminating employment (e.g., Up In The Air), in-person interaction may remain the best strategy.

If we lose the skill of face-to-face communication, we'll end up pissing a lot of people off, making enemies at work. We could lose a lot of friends and productivity because of it.

But there are also more tools for face-to-face communication. These video chat applications are very popular, too. I believe these will become more convenient to use (more cameras on monitors, etc). They may become a substitute for in-person communication, but I don't think face-to-face communication will go away.

We all have to go through a learning curve as we enter the workforce, but I don't think that we'll lose the skills of face-to-face communication. Those who are effective at work, and those who wish to be, will learn these skills, even if they do become a bit more rare, especially for new generations of workers fresh out of school.

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