The importance of verbal communication

Human communication can sometimes be a strange and subtle thing. I was reminded of this, this week, in an online exchange where there was a misunderstanding, and things should I say, got a little testy.

I am not sure what exactly has happened, but the social media age seems to have changed us. Online communication, and on social media in particular, there now seems to be no filter. Critical or hurtful, many people just say what they think, irrelevant to the consequence of what is being said. You only have the read the comments listed on Twitter or Facebook to see this played out – keyboard warriors all in the privacy of our front room.

This behaviour clearly seems to be now also bleeding through to email too.

Fortress email

For me the email was always a bastion of caution. How many of us have spend hours pouring over an email, trying to get the wording just right – trying to convey a message clearly, yet also avoiding any misinterpretation.

It was never easy and, being human, I know I have dropped more than a few clangers on the way, even sitting on emails overnight to re-read in the cold light of the next day.

However, in this new world of insta-comment with expectations of insta-response, I wonder if all this caution is fading. Now in emails too, it seems we are frequently becoming more grumpy.

Power of human centred communication

Although digital forms of communication are everyday, thanks to the easing of lockdown restrictions, I am now able to get out to meet people again in person. The contrast has been quite stark.

Within 10 minutes, many misunderstandings are smoothed over with things back on track. It may not change what was said, but somehow it just doesn’t seem relevant with the person standing in front of you. Most of the time we all like to try to get along.

All of this points again to the importance of human to human interaction, in generating common understanding and avoiding misunderstanding. In our remote working, digital-enabled world this has important implications.

Undoubtedly exchanging information digitally is highly efficient, quick and easy. For many things, transactional and everyday, it works very well. However, when things become complicated, fraught or sensitive injecting the human element is clearly important. Another human reaching out offering genuine support can be invaluable.

Avoiding consequences and cost

Getting this right is a tricky balance. Doing it well can not only provide better support and understanding, but also avoid negative consequences of misunderstanding and save the cost of subsequently picking up the pieces.

As we exit lockdowns and look for a new balance, it is something we may all need to factor in.

Have a good weekend everyone.

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