Every day we interact with hundreds of people across dozens of platforms, but how can a meaningful conversation help your business?

Conversations are key to language development, the exchange of thoughts and ideas and listening to each other. People learn by hearing each other’s thoughts while observing facial and body expressions that show emotions.

“Face to face conversation is the most human and humanising thing we do,” says Sherry Turkle in her book ‘Reclaiming Conversation – The Power of Talk in a Digital Age’.
“Fully present to one another, we learn to listen. It is where we develop the capacity for empathy. It’s where we experience the joy of being heard and of being understood.
Conversation advances self-reflection, the conversations with ourselves that are the cornerstone of early development and continue throughout life.”

Technology is a part of everyday life, but replacing face-to-face conversation with phone conversation, via texting, emailing, etc., has taken important skills away from children and young adults.
In today’s world, there is a “flight from conversation,” as Turkle says. All ages of people cannot do without phones and screens, but a balance is of utmost importance.

How much time do you typically spend with others? And when you do, how connected and attuned to them do you feel? Your answers to these simple questions may well reveal your biological capacity to connect.

If you’ve ever been trapped in an lift with a casual acquaintance, you know just how painful small talk can be. “Such a shame that we’re stuck in the office on a beautiful day like this!” your peer may even smile. Or, “How was your weekend?” your neighbor may ask not because he or she actually cares about the quality of your weekend, but because there is an awkward silence that begs to be filled.

There’s a reason small talk like this exists. If your peer were to ask you about your darkest secrets or deepest wishes while the two of you descend floors in a tiny metal box, you would probably feel like this is too much, too fast. As in, too much intimacy, too early on in your relationship.
Likewise, small talk can help us probe for more interesting topics to talk about.
For example, if you were to answer your neighbor by saying, “My weekend was great! I bought the final component for my laser defense drone,” your neighbor would definitely have some follow-up questions.

The instant and omnipresent world of communication has increased our capacity to connect on a perfunctory level, but in some cases has thwarted our capacity to have real and meaningful face-to-face conversations.
The two forms of communication — virtual and physical — can work in tandem, though the physical kind obviously takes a bit more effort, but most often results in a far more meaningful experience.

A popular article in The New York Times, Your Phone vs Your Heart, mirrored some of these observations. In particular, the article explored how we can actually “re-wire” our heart and brain to become more secluded.
It contends, “If you don’t regularly exercise your ability to connect face to face, you’ll eventually find yourself lacking some of the basic biological capacity to do so.”
In summary, if you don’t go out of your way to form meaningful, personal friendships beyond the virtual ones, you may lose the ability to do so in the future.
A sort of “use it or lose it” model. What was also intriguing about the article was that through these connections, you actually build up your biological capacity to not only empathize but also improve your health.

Heidegger probably had it right when he made the prescient statement, “Technology makes us at home everywhere and nowhere [at the same time].”

We are more connected than ever, yet we remain walled off behind our smartphones, mobile devices and computer screens.
Perhaps our communication tools are more cosmetic than we think; they have yet to master the ancient and inimitable art of human contact.
Your success is determined in large part by your ability to have a conversation. You can be the best at what you do, but if you’re not communicating effectively with clients, staff and the market, then you’re missing opportunities.
There are many different ways to look at communication in the small-business world from the individual formats such as writing and speaking, to different contexts such as client communication and employee management.
Each and every day you will be required to flex your communication muscles and interact; a bad conversation could spell disaster for an employee relationship, a customer or your business.
Alternatively, the right words at the right time could propel your business into places you didn’t think possible and can deliver opportunities that were not available before.

Geoff Hudson-Searle – Meaningful Conversations

We should all stay inspired with ideas and innovation, creating great things!

Interestingly, meaningful conversations are not restricted to, or guaranteed by, long-term relationships. I’ve had deeper conversations with strangers on an airplane than with some people I’ve known for decades.

Karen Salmansohn once said:

“Choose to focus your time, energy and conversation around people who inspire you, support you and help you to grow you into your happiest, strongest, wisest self.”

Social Media, H2H relationships and the smartphone

I recently had a very intriguing conversation with my social media and blog agency – we have those conversations normally at 11pm London time, every Sunday night. Jacques will ask me: “How are you my friend? Your blog for Monday is all set.” I will respond with: “I am Social Media worked out, so tired”, to which Jacques responds: “So just come off Social Media and concentrate on your writing, I still want to see your next book!”
At this point I laugh loudly, but the facts are, when Jacques said this to me it was a precious moment of introspection and reflection – some people call this a light bulb moment, the result is he is so right, and this is a subject I have written extensively about: ‘Is Human 2 Human Communication Dying’, ‘In the praise of speed or not, as the case may be’, ‘Has technology killed love and romance’, ‘Why are our H2H relationships so disconnected from life?’ – just to name a few.

One month after truly quitting Twitter (we even removed the Twitter-share buttons from the site), I feel much better: no incessant alerts anymore, no more sending only (without feedback). And, I actually found a true quality-alternative: interaction, feedback and participation – you can find me here: Geoff on beBee.

If you are emotionally attached to your smartphone and rely on it every waking minute, it may be harming your relationships – I find most accidents happen with people texting when they walk, not to mention what happens when you are in their line of the street. The new education for humans is how to avoid being knocked over by the person texting on their smartphone.

So how does social media affect interaction in our society? Will face-to-face communication ultimately diminish because of these new social technologies? These questions are ones that many researchers have found extremely intriguing since the advent and popularisation of social media in the last decade. Within this topic, social competency is an important ideal that most people strive towards, but there is evidence to support the claims that social media is actually harming people’s ability to interact competently in an offline setting.

Psychologists claim that increasing numbers of people in long-term partnerships are having to compete with their partner’s smartphone for attention, making it the ‘third wheel’ in their relationship.

A survey found that almost three quarters of women in committed relationships feel that smartphones are interfering with their love life and are reducing the amount of time they spend with their partner.

Scientists found that what they describe as this ‘technoference’ – even if infrequent – sets off a chain of negative events: more conflict about technology, lower relationship quality, lower life satisfaction and higher risk of depression.
• 62 per cent of women in long-term relationships who were surveyed said technology interferes with their free time together
• 35 per cent claim their partner will pull out his phone mid-conversation if they receive a notification
• 25 per cent said their partner actively texts other people during the couple’s face-to-face conversations
• 75 per cent said their smartphone is affecting their relationship.
The poll, which was conducted by Brandon McDaniel of The Pennsylvania State University and Sarah Coyne of Brigman Young University in Utah, surveyed 143 women.

Further studies on the social competency of youths who spend much of their time on social media networks are sometimes very conflicting. For example, a study executed by the National Institute of Health found that youths with strong, positive face-to-face relationships may be those most frequently using social media as an additional venue to interact with their peers. As a pretty outgoing person myself, I find myself using social media as an extra outlet to obtain real-time news feeds, research and interact with people who are interested in my book. Although I personally agree with this study’s findings, I also believe that social media can be an excellent avenue for introverted people to find a comfortable setting to interact and from the opposite it can drive a highly-motivated individual to isolation, loneliness and to mental health disorder.

I definitely believe that face-to-face interaction must continue to be our main source of communication. According to Forbes magazine, only 7% of communication is based on the verbal word. That means that over 90% of communication is based on nonverbal cues such as body language, eye contact, and tone of voice.

Scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that the brain chemicals of people who habitually used the Internet and were perhaps addicted to it had abnormal connections between the nerve fibers in their brain. These changes are similar to other sorts of addicts, including alcoholics.

Take “ghosting,” which has been discussed regularly in the media lately. The name refers to someone simply vanishing from another person’s life, usually after the two have gone on several dates. It’s a frustrating, confusing and, certainly, impolite way to end a relationship, but it’s not new.

The connected world’s larger behavioral impact is more on how we interact with each other on a daily basis. A 2014 study: “The iPhone Effect: The Quality of In-Person Social Interactions in the Presence of Mobile Devices” looked at the effects that phones have when people talk face-to-face. Observing 100 friendly couples having a 10-minute conversation while their phone was present, researchers noticed that the individuals still continued to fiddle with their phones. When those same couples conversed without a phone present, their conversations resulted in greater empathy.

A very interesting white paper named “Information in the Study of Human Interaction” by Keith Devlin and Duska Rosenberg states that in today’s world, most of us think of information as a commodity that is largely independent of how it is embodied. It can be bought, sold, stolen, exchanged, shared, stored, sent along wires and through the ether, and so forth. It can also be processed, using information technologies, both concepts that would have sounded alien (and probably nonsensical) to anyone living in the nineteenth century, and even the first half of the twentieth.

Little by little, Internet and mobile technology seems to be subtly destroying the meaningfulness of interactions we have with others, disconnecting us from the world around us, and leading to an imminent sense of isolation in today’s society. Instead of spending time in person with friends, we just call, text or instant message them. It may seem simpler and easier, but we ultimately end up seeing our friends face to face a lot less. Ten texts can’t even begin to equal an hour spent chatting with a friend over coffee, lunch or dinner. And a smiley-face emoticon is cute, but it could never replace the ear-splitting grin and smiling eyes of one of your best friends. Face time is important, people. We need to see each other.

This doesn’t just apply to our friends; it applies to the world around us. It should come as no surprise that face-to-face interaction is proven by studies to comfort us and provide us with some important sense of well-being.

There’s something intangibly real and valuable about talking with someone face to face. This is significant for friends, partners, potential employers, and other recurring people that make up your everyday world. That person becomes an important existing human connection, not just someone whose disembodied text voice pops up on your cell phone, iPad or computer screen.

While technology has allowed us some means of social connection that would have never been possible before, and has allowed us to maintain long-distance friendships that would have otherwise probably fallen by the wayside, the fact remains that it is causing us to spread ourselves too thin, as well as slowly ruining the quality of social interaction that we all need as human beings.

As Anthony Carmona once said:

“Social media websites are no longer performing an envisaged function of creating a positive communication link among friends, family and professionals. It is a veritable battleground, where insults fly from the human quiver, damaging lives, destroying self-esteem and a person’s sense of self-worth.”

Is Human to Human communication dying?

in person communicationThis week I was privileged to have coffee with a good friend of mine who flew into London from Tokyo on a business trip and somehow in his busy schedule and mine we managed to have breakfast at The Ritz on Piccadilly.

After a delicious but expensive breakfast, we discussed some of the week’s latest and most recent stories in the media that we came across by email, social media and other collaboration tools. We discussed one particular story where a mum exchanged text messages with her daughter who was in school. They ‘chatted’ back and forth, the mum asking how things were going and daughter answering with positive statements followed by emoticons showing smiles, b-i-g smiles and hearts. Happiness. Later that night, her daughter attempted suicide. It came to light that she’d been holed up in her room, crying, and showing signs of depression — a completely different reality from the one that she conveyed in texts, Facebook posts, and tweets.

As human beings, our only real method of connection is through authentic communication. Studies show that only 7% of communication is based on the written or verbal word. A whopping 93% is based on nonverbal body language. Indeed, it’s only when we can hear a tone of voice or look into someone’s eyes that we’re able to know when “I’m fine” doesn’t mean they’re fine at all.

Engrossed with technology, anyone can hide behind the text, the e-mail, the Facebook post, or the tweet, projecting any image they want and creating an illusion of their choosing. They can be whoever they want to be. And without the ability to receive nonverbal cues, their audiences are none the wiser.

This presents an unprecedented paradox. With all the powerful social technologies at our fingertips, we are more connected – and potentially more disconnected – than ever before.

Every relevant metric shows that we are interacting at fast speed and frequency through social media. But are we really communicating? With 93% of our communication context stripped away, we are now attempting to forge relationships and make decisions based on phrases. Abbreviations. Snippets. Emoticons. Which may or may not be accurate representations of the truth.

Social technologies have broken the barriers of space and time, enabling us to interact 24/7 with more people than ever before. But like any revolutionary concept, it has spawned a set of new barriers and threats. Is the focus now on communication quantity versus quality? Superficiality versus authenticity? In an ironic twist, social media has the potential to make us less social; a surrogate for the real thing. For it to be a truly effective communication vehicle, all parties bear a responsibility to be genuine, accurate, and not allow it to replace human contact altogether.

In the world of communications, email is now thought to be second fiddle to the likes of Twitter and Facebook. The always-on mentality has brought about these new ways to communicate that are faster than email, and much more fun.

face to faceIn the past we had a set of contacts, all of whom generally knew how to reach us via telephone, letter, or e-mail. Today, thanks in large part to social media and collaboration tools, there are many different levels of communicating. Our networks are larger than they’ve ever been, and we’ve more ways to communicate with those in them. Even if you’re not active on Facebook or Twitter, who you communicate with and how you communicate will probably have changed dramatically in the last year or two. This new connected era brings with it both opportunities and challenges, and it pays to know how to use each.

Studies from the Radicati Group show that 144.8 billion emails are sent every single day. Now that’s a lot of emails being passed back and forth! It doesn’t stop here, though. This number is projected to rise to 192.2 billion by 2016. Today, there are approximately 3.4 billion email accounts worldwide, with three-quarters of those owned by individual consumers.

A corporate cost and productivity analysis with some interesting if not alarming statistics is below:

  • The average worker checks their email 36 times per hour – Atlassian
  • The typical corporate user spends over 2 hours per day reading and responding to emails – McKinsey, the Social Economy
  • Professionals receive an average of 304 business emails per week – Atlassian
  • It typically takes 20-15 minutes to refocus on a project following an email – Microsoft
  • On average, the business user spends 28 hours per week writing emails – McKinsey

Add it up – pretty costly to an organisation and to the productivity (and sanity) of end users. According to NewsGator, “one Fortune 100 manufacturing company calculated that a simple 2% reduction in email volume could save $2.6 million per year”.

I think there needs to be a balance of email, social media and collaboration tools. What ever happened to picking up the phone? Or talking to someone face-to-face? Or do we not have time?