THE VALUE OF INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION IN A DIGITAL WORKPLACE


By James D’Ambrosio

As a communications professional, I’ve kept pace with social media/digital communications tools to stay current in my field. However, while electronic communication has created greater opportunity to efficiently complete work and reach audiences, it is part of the communications equation, not the whole.

In fact, interpersonal communication — direct face-to-face dialogue — has long been known to be the most effective form of communication. It still has its place in nonprofit and private business.     

BENEFITS OF INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION

The following are some situations where interpersonal communication can be helpful professionally:

1) DETAILED INFORMATION: When dealing with a complex issue, e-mail falls short. There’s too much back-and-forth that can result in misunderstandings and incomplete exchanges that lead to mistakes. Better to get up from your desk, speak in person, and clarify details.  

2) MAJOR PROJECTS: Working on major projects, direct communication can help avoid problems and emphasize key points. For example, during conversations, additional issues may arise, which can be directly addressed. You finish the conversation confident you’ve got a grasp of new information.

3) BETTER UNDERSTANDING: Face-to-face interaction allows you to observe body language and how someone reacts emotionally to your ideas. Since much of communication is nonverbal — upwards of 80-90 percent —you’ll gain a fuller understanding of co-workers’ outlook and perspective, something you can’t get from a computer screen or mobile device. 

4) DONOR RELATIONS: In nonprofit, interpersonal communication is critical for soliciting major gifts. When attempting to steward a prospect toward a large contribution — perhaps $10,000 or more — you’re going to meet in person and need that polished presentation that can only come from experience and comfort with interpersonal communication. It literally pays to keep these skills sharp.

5) MEETINGS: Many complain meetings are too long, lack substance and take time away from their work. Surely that happens. But a well-planned meeting — agenda distributed in advance and participants adequately prepared — still has value for robust discussion. Make the most of this opportunity to present your ideas. 

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE — A LOOK BACK

To be sure, technology can and should be used for many basic communications — brief items, attaching files, posting information, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, distributing reports, etc. But an over reliance on technology has its drawbacks. Consider an example from an earlier era. 

Years ago, prior to the Internet/digital age, a popular airline television commercial focused on this very issue. Depicting a manager discussing declining sales with employees, he laments a lack of personal communication (in the 1980’s, phone and fax were considered impersonal). He then announces a change in business practices and begins distributing airline tickets to employees to meet potential clients in person. The closing scene shows an employee leaving the meeting with an airline ticket in his back pocket. History can, indeed, teach us something.   

___________________________________________________________

QUESTIONS TO READERS:

A) What is your take on the value of interpersonal communication at work? 

B) In what situations have you successfully used it?

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