Virtual relationships are more fragile and easily disrupted because they all lack the unconscious connections our face-to-face interactions automatically convey.  The lift of an eyebrow, a quick smile, a shake of the head – these are the ways we decode other people’s intents.  They are largely absent from all forms of digital communication.

In business, that leads to miscommunication, misunderstandings, and a huge amount of do-overs, workarounds, and relationship repair.  It’s expensive. It’s inefficient. And the cost in fractured relationships, missed opportunities, and lost connections is incalculable.  Because we make decisions with our emotions, moreover, when you take them out of the communication, or the audio conference, or the webinar, it becomes almost impossible to make good decisions when we’re immersed in the virtual stream.

In our personal lives, the same problems occur, especially when we’re trying to connect with someone at a distance, virtually.  It’s expensive in many, less quantifiable, ways.

The result of this massive social experiment is a huge increase in loneliness, social isolation, FOMO and Instagram/Facebook Envy, and, tragically, teenage depression and even suicide.  We may be raising a generation of people who are unhappy communicating virtually and incompetent communicating face-to-face.  Those of us who have one foot in the face-to-face world and one foot in the virtual world are torn, invested in both, but with not enough time to devote to either to master them or feel completely at home in both.

What’s to be done?  The experiment will continue.  We can’t live without our gadgets.  Too much of our personal and work lives today relies on the virtual.  Indeed, most organizations with an international reach couldn’t function without the digital means of communication they use every day.

But we need to learn to live smarter and communicate differently in order to survive in this brave new digital world.  We need to begin to consciously add the emotional subtext back into our virtual communications in order to avoid the costs – personal and financial – associated with miscommunication.

I’m delighted to announce to the insiders who follow my blog that pre-orders for my new book, Can You Hear Me? are now available on Amazon.  The book will be published by Harvard in October 2018, but such is the long process of publishing a book that we are ready to show off the cover, the title, and the spot on Amazon where it will reside.  This blog post and the previous one are excerpted from the introduction to the book.  If the subject matter intrigues you, please sign up for your own pre-ordered copy.  Pre orders are incredibly important to the publishing business in this era because they allow the publisher to gauge interest in the book and prepare accordingly. More pre orders means more support from the publisher, a better print run and wider distribution.  If a lot of you sign up for pre orders, paradoxically, it will greatly increase the chance that Harvard will persuade Barnes and Noble to carry physical copies of the book in their stores, at least the bigger ones in hot locations.  That increases the chance that people will be able to stumble on the book, on a shelf in an actual bookstore, and that would be very cool indeed. So please, if you love communications, this blog, or apple pie, go to Amazon and pre order the book today.  




  1. There is nothing wrong with virtual communication.
    Communications that are not made in human and trational form, our old, good eye-to-eye certainly fail to generate that empathy that occurs with verbal and bodily communication.
    But as the reality that we live changes with great speed and new forms of everything are being created so that one can adjust to the new demands, what does not say will be done perfectly.
    Thus, it is up to each stakeholder to assess how much noise there is in a virtual communication and to consider the implications of malabsorption that could result some problem with th business success by acting in that way.
    Thus, while on the one hand, nothing can perfectly replace the eye-in-eye, it is also true that distance and urgency play an important role when virtual communication is used by necessity.
    Maybe we will have virtual communication in the near future, but with hológrafica technology, as did Princess Leia in the movie StarWar becomes available, at least for the people more the most rich.
    Researchers at MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are working on this.
    So my dear Dr. Nick Morgan, unfortunately I have not had the pleasure of meeting you personally, but via the Internet, I can track your posts that I really like. No doubt, sitting in front you , drinking a a cup of coffe with you and listening this same article, it would be more exciting. From here, BrasiI, São Paulo, using the waves of the Internet I send to you a warm embrace full of bits.

    Não exite nada de errado com a comunicação virtual.
    As comunicações que não feitas na forma humana e tracional, o nosso velho e bom olho-no-olho certamente deixa de gerar aquela empatia que ocorre com a comunicação verbal e corporal.
    Mas como a realidade que vivemos muda com grande velocidade e novas formas de tudo vão sendo criadas para que se possa se ajustar às novas demandas, o que não dizer quer será feita de forma perfeita.
    Assim cabe a cada interessado avaliar o quanto de ruído possa existir numa comunicação virtual e considerar as implicaçoes de malentedidos que poderiam resultar no acerto de negócio, atuando nessa forma.
    Assim, se por um lado, nada pode substituir perfeitamente o olho-no-olho, é verdade também que a distância e a urgência tem peso importante quando se usa por necessidade a comunicação virtual.
    Quem sabe teremos num futuro próximo a comunicação virtual, mas com tecnologia hológrafica, como fazia usa a Princesa Leia no filme StarWar passa a ficar disponível, pelo menos mais os mais aquinhoados.
    Os pesquisadores da MIT, Instituto de Tecnologia de Massachusetts, estão trabalhando nisso.
    Então, meu caro Dr. Nick Morgan, infelizmente eu não tive o prazer de conhecê-lo pessoalmente, mas através da Internet, eu posso rastrear seus posts que eu realmente gosto. Sem dúvida, sentado na frente, bebendo uma xícara de café com você e ouvindo o mesmo artigo, seria mais emocionante. A partir daqui do Brasil, São Paulo usando as ondas da Internet, envio-lhe um caloroso abraço cheio de bits.

    1. Elazier, thank you so much for your comment, which makes my point exactly. Virtual communication doesn’t work as well as face-to-face. Of course, the virtual communication has enormous strengths — ease, speed, cost, etc — or it wouldn’t have swept the world so thoroughly. But we should also ask, what is virtual communication missing?

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