Look me in the eye and say that.
My public relations practice brings me in many circles with creatives and artists who value the incredible power of live performance and face-to-face interaction. Our world is simultaneously getting bigger and more global, while people are lonelier and more isolated with their personal tech than ever before. What can we do to turn the tide?
As a social media manager, it also requires me to resolve conflict and build community over social media platforms. Keyboard warriors, trolls and lonely young people all co-habitate in social media communities and often conflict erupts. My secret weapon? Actually reaching out to them privately and simply listening. Most people who intentionally create conflict are simply seeking a place for their frustration or fear to land… when you reach out, oftentimes their actual issue is completely unrelated to the virtual conflict they created. When you actually speak to them on the phone or in person, the conflict is usually diminished fairly easily with a kind word, a listening ear, and the benefit of really seeing them and sharing eye contact..
First, it’s important to note WHY face-to-face communication bests digital engagement, hands down. As an infant, we learn to read non-verbal cues - not just gestures and expressions, but eye contact, posture, body orientation, touch, humor, personal space, appearance and even silence (my favorite). As a child, we learn by mimicking and continue this through adulthood… “reading the room” and “being a chameleon” are strong skills to have in any professional setting. Virtual/digital communication - email or texts - simply lacks that interpersonal bond and is inherently less trustworthy.
Moreover, there’s simply no substitute for an in-person meeting to clarify and resolve conflicts or misunderstandings, or build consensus or buy-in… tactics often called upon in public relations practice on behalf of our clients (and ourselves). It’s more credible, efficient, productive, and the very act of calling and holding a meeting builds trust and conveys transparency.
Contact. Collective. Community. Connection. All critical links in a chain of communication that feeds us, empowers us, and enlightens us. And the reverse is true: check out photographer and artist Eric Pickersgill, who removed technology from people’s hands to reveal what we truly lack: connectivity.
If 10% of communication is what is said, 20% is what we hear, and 70% is what we see, it’s clear that we need to see those we wish to connect with. Make time to call a colleague or friend and set up a date to meet in person. You won’t regret it.