Face to Face in the Digital World

This summer, I became an Empty Nester.  Before the 21 year-old grandson moved out, I was fast-forwarded into the teen world of communicating.

“What’s for dinner?” he text messaged from his bedroom to my kitchen. “Open your door and find out,” I fingered and thumbed back.  “What’s the weather like outside?” “Look out your window,” was my reply.  Of course, mine was all spelled out; Frank’s was text abbreviated. Spelling is an option for the electronic cowboy.

When is the last time you came across someone who didn’t own some type of electronic gadget that allowed them to communicate with someone else remotely?  Even when there’s just a short distance between them?

Texting and Tweeting have become the norm.  Even when people are in the same room or at the same table, electronic waves cross back and forth. For those of you who aren’t Tweeting yet, it comes with Twitter, the fastest method of short communicating electronically out there today.

Author Susan RoAne says, “Communicating today is like the restaurant fare of Surf and Turf—you need to be able to surf and use the Internet, be technically adept with use of the gizmos and gadgets of technology and have online skills.”  Her just released book, Face to Face: How to Reclaim the Personal touch in the Digital World (Touchstone/Fireside) is chock full of how-tos, dos and don’ts.

According to RoAne, “Today’s business leaders look for people who are socially adept and ready to offer a real-time handshake, a smile, an interesting conversation and an intelligent presentation.”

That means that the gizmos and gadgets need to be out of sight once in awhile and that the savvy person in the workplace gets to communicate the old fashion way: face to face. 

Be wary of the person who plops their BlackBerry next to the water glass next time you have lunch. Granted, they could have a make it or break it deal ready to pop at any time and they need to be on the alert.  But, and it’s the common “but”—there isn’t a make or break it deal on the horizon.  The PDA has become an appendage that they can’t leave home or the office without.

That gadget, ready to spring to life at an impulse’s moment, will silently dominate the space on the table, in your pocket, wherever. The owner is rarely fully present in your conversation. Better to turn it off and put it away until the gathering or meeting is over.

Whether you are meeting with a colleague, attending a lunch or business meeting, the weekly staff meeting or just visiting a friend, all of us need to know how to interact, how to behave, and how to connect with others. In public.  

In our electronic world, according to RoAne, “Face to face communication has taken a backseat to cell phones, texting and tweeting.” She admits that she, too, can send a photo attachment via her Treo, but communicating directly, in person, is at the head of the class. 

Her many tips include:

§  Let technology enhance—not dominate—your personal and professional life;

§  Learn the best ways to connect: email vs. phone vs. face-to-face. Do it simply by asking the person you are connecting with which is their preferred method;

§  Develop the art of small talk and learn how to transition from small talk to big talk at the appropriate time; and

§  Learn how to handle office and personal politics with savvy and grace.

I travel extensively with my speaking and consulting business—my BlackBerry is in my pocket, out of sight.  I have to stay connected. It’s business. 

It’s easy to respond back with a short and quick email, which I do … but so much better if I dial the phone and at least connect via voice.  If appropriate, face to face time is set up.

Remember, the electronic world is just that… distant and well, electronic.  There isn’t the personal or chemical connection that meeting and interacting that face to face communications brings to the table. The experts in communications will always tell you that visual and tones are key ingredients in communicating … in other words, you need to hear and see others once in awhile! 

Emailing, Texting and Tweeting might do in a pinch, but to close the deal, never underestimate the power of being present.

It’s not so much about YourSpace or MySpace … it’s about OurSpace and TheirSpace.  How will you know what TheirSpace and OurSpace looks and feels like unless you can be in it, in person?