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.