I am not a dinosaur. I love technology. It makes my life run more efficiently. I can send a text to tell my friend I’m running five minutes late, and I can confirm tomorrow’s appointments without having to make a call, wait for an answer, or be required to leave a voicemail.
On the other hand, how many of us are frustrated by our parents’ insistence on that darn flip phone and refusal to learn how to text? Do they have a point? Is technology changing the way we connect with each other? Is eye contact becoming obsolete?
Communication requires connection. It has nothing to do with whether you’re a millennial or a baby boomer, nor whether you’re starting a relationship, deeply into one, or seeing it come to an end. And no relationship is immune from connection, whether it’s romantic, platonic, business, or consumer. We all have to communicate and we all have to connect.
I connect with my clients on a daily basis in my mediation practice. Yet, in order to do my best work, I need to see their faces and they need to look at each other. Further, I want to pay as much attention to their body language as I do to their words. Obviously, it’s not always possible.and when the conversation takes place on the phone, I often feel frustrated while listening to their concerns, fears, and sadness because I’m unable to pass over a box of tissues. A conference call allows us to communicate, but we’re not really connecting. And that doesn’t only apply to me as the neutral third party, it also matters to the people participating. They need to see each other when they’re making important decisions about their future. Sarcasm as well as sincerity can best be read by eye contact.
Why is eye contact important?
1. It forces people to pay attention to each other, and actually listen.
2. Listening leads to understanding, and understanding leads to resolution.
3. Making eye contact shows civility, good manners and, most of all, respect.
Once my clients have had a meaningful conversation with each other, I’m ready to resume my love for technology. Sending a follow-up e-mail to summarize the meeting is efficient, and it allows me to make sure I’ve included every last detail. My clients can then take their time to carefully review my email, ask questions and/or seek advice when appropriate, and ultimately have a complete understanding before they sign on the dotted line.
I’m convinced that there’s room for personal connection in a virtual world just as much as there’s room for technology in relationships. The trick is to figure out what’s appropriate for you, and then communicate about your priorities, face-to-face with your friends, family, partners, colleagues, employers, and employees. Ask for their opinion to see whether you can arrive at an agreement about your future communication. And when you’ve figured it out, look them straight in the eye, smile, and say you’ll do your best.