To Text or Not To Text
Is texting and emailing going to replace face to face conversation? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say no. Yet, many people who run their own business complain that it’s getting harder and harder to get clients on the phone or meet them in person.
My sister Lynette, a talented makeup artist, tells me her frustration with clients contacting her to inquire about her services. They want all the information either by text or email. She explains that by having a conversation she can better understand what the woman wants for her special day. For example an email is sent to her with the following request.
“I want to look completely natural with smokey eyes, deep red lips, sculpted cheek bones and lash extensions. I don’t want to look too glamorous but if you can replicate Cyndi Lauper’s look for me, I would appreciate it.”
There’s a lot to unpack here, I’m just glad I don’t have her job.
My experience with customers, when I do get them on the phone, is how much quicker I can understand their wants and needs.You can’t judge emotion or understand what is most important by just reading text. In our quest to be more efficient we sometimes waste more time as we wait for responses or realize through more emails that the recipient misconstrued the information we sent.
My young co-worker tells me she met a nice guy and they stayed up all night texting each other. I asked, ‘The whole night? You mean you both sat and typed and not once thought to actually call and talk to each other?” She looked at me as if I was some kind of ancient relic.
Why is it so hard to get someone on the phone? I’m afraid our communication skills are getting rusty because we are not taking the time to have solid conversations. I think we are causing ourselves undue stress as we try to interpret a person’s tone, meaning and emotion through the hastily written text or email.
Here’s a common scenario: a text comes through and I check to see whom it’s from. I now have to decipher the message full of misspelled words and abbreviations followed with emojis. I call the person back because I can’t figure out what they want. The phone goes right to voice mail. This person had time to text me but will not answer the phone. I leave a message and say, “I honestly tried to understand your message. I can’t tell if you had a stroke or in the middle of a seizure. I hope you are alright, but just in case, I called 911. Paramedics are on the way.”
We have spent thousands of years evolving our communication skills. We automatically read peoples’ body language and facial expressions. We can tell if someone is smiling even if we are speaking on the phone to them. We adjust our conversation to the person we are speaking with to make sure our ideas are understood. We look for nods of agreement or a shrug of the shoulders to let us know how we are coming across. We don’t have those nuances over emails. We are left to guess the tone of the person who is responding by text. I will stare at an emoji and try to determine if it’s a sad face, a confused face or a mad face. I will then have my own face looking annoyed.
I like that technology has made getting in touch with people quick and easy. I do like texting and emailing. I just don’t see a replacement for actual discussions. When a friend has good news I want to hear all about it. I want to do more than leave a picture of a smiling face. I want to celebrate with her. Most likely wine will be involved. It’s the same when she has bad news. I want to be there to lend a shoulder to cry on and pour the wine.
We are wired to be social and communication is at the heart of it. Cultivating relationships, whether business or personal, relies on speaking to each other. Our exchange of ideas is better facilitated when we know we are on the same page. It’s too easy to misconstrue a badly spelled text or not have a sense of urgency over email. Once again, Eric, I thought when you typed “8 dinner” meant you had already eaten, not have dinner ready by 8. This marriage thing is hard, but that’s a whole other article.
My experience of creating and keeping strong relationships was taking the time to show up in person or talking on the phone. Our success, many times, happens because of the people we meet and stay in contact with. Networking and creating connections is how we learn, grow and develop our friendships and businesses.
We all need to take the time to socialize. My advice: pick up the phone, go on a real date, call me and tell me all about it. I’ll bring wine.