Let me start with a confession – I text like a teenager.  Technology in general, and texting in particular help me run my life with efficiency. I can send a text to my friend to tell him I’m running five minutes late, and I can confirm tomorrow’s mediation appointments without having to make a call, wait for an answer, or 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 or email? Do they have a point or are they simply dinosaurs? 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.

Virtually, I connect with my divorce mediation clients on a daily basis. And I also need to see their faces and body language in order to do my best work.  Moreover, they need to look at each other. Obviously, it’s not always possible. 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 Mediator, 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.

So, 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 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 dinosaurs to embrace technology. The trick is to find the balance, figure out what’s appropriate for you in various scenarios, and then communicate about your priorities, face-to-face with your friends, family, partners, colleagues, clients, employers, and employees. Ask for their opinion to see whether you can arrive at a consensus 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.