I got a call today from a distraught friend who had just tried to arrange a brief meeting with someone, to discuss details for an upcoming fundraiser, and been summarily brushed aside with the comment, “I don’t have time for meetings. They are a waste of time…here’s a website you can check out.”
Okay, so first of all, I get that. Yes, meetings can be a waste of time, but so can searching around a website when a few minutes of actually talking to someone could produce a quick answer or two. How many times have you ploughed through a website looking for the info you need and come up empty? Or, my pet peeve, how much time have you wasted sitting on the phone listening to 10 options you don’t care about, the prerequisite before you get through to a real human being on the other end, at which point you finally get to ask your personal, easily answered question?
We just don’t talk anymore….especially face-to-face. But even a phone call is becoming increasingly rare—Call you? Are you kidding?—when email is so much more efficient…but wait, now even email (a one-way communication) is passé if you’re communicating with anyone under 40. (“Don’t email or leave a phone message…if you want to reach me, text me…or message me.”)
So, we must all leap into texting, and I’m surprised the cell phone companies haven’t figured out that larger keyboards might be a hot seller. My older daughter is trying to get me up to speed, with advice on the best handset, but especially on the best plan. Sometimes I yearn for the good old days of phone company monopolies with a set price no option menu…”You want black or black?”
But back to actually meeting up with people in person. Didn’t I hear not too long ago that 70% of our communication is non-verbal; that is, that we learn most of our information about others by non-verbal cues, by looking directly into someone’s eyes, by seeing if they’re nervously shuffling positions, or leaning back in their chair bored and probably multi-tasking? Yet even a moment of eyes meeting can ignite that spark of connection, of understanding. Any journalist knows a good interviewer must learn to “read” all the signals people project.
But these days, forget the visual cues, we don’t even get the aural cues much of the time. It’s the written word, take it or leave it. When my younger daughter says “I talked to so-and-so last night”, she means she “messaged” them, and did not, in fact, even hear them utter a word..
Now, mind you, as a writer, I’m thrilled that we’re putting so much emphasis on the written word, but frankly, I’m not sure “LOL” or a happy face qualify. I thought “LOL” (Laugh Out Loud) was “lots of love” at first, and was a little surprised by the context it was being used in, not to mention the people who were sending me love. When I tried printing “:” and then” )” for my happy face, my computer insisted it knew what I meant and switched to a happy face automatically…ah, progress.
I’ve just found an online report entitled “Integrating Face-to-face and Virtual Meeting & Event Strategies: Enhancing Participant Experiences and Increasing Business Value” (honest…it’s there!), and among other things have learned that 1 out of 8 couples who married in the U.S. in 2009 met via social media. (No doubt that figure is much higher now). Happily, even this report, however, does insist that face-to-face interactions are important and advises developing a “blended strategy” of virtual and real meetings and events.
I’ve heard rumors that some Gen X and Gen Yers are suddenly discovering the importance of being in physical proximity to someone they want to communicate with effectively, or close a deal with, get to know socially, or maybe even marry someday. If you want to hear me actually say “Hooray”, give me a call.
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