Modern Communication Fallacy of Presence
Modern communication seems limitless. For low to no cost, I can communicate with almost anyone in the world, real time, using many different avenues. But with the convenience gained through these technological communication advances, we are losing things too. We are losing context, tone, intention, and presence.
In some ways, we are always connected. We are connected to the internet, the cloud, a web of information, and almost anyone we could want to be connected with. But at the same time, we are very disconnected. This is not face-to-face interaction. Often we are multi-tasking and are only partially listening and connecting. It begs the same issue that high levels of WIP does – we’re not receiving (or giving) the value for individual things as quickly or as well as we could be.
We are losing the human element. When you are face-to-face with someone, how often do you look at your phone? How often do you press the home button to see if you missed a message? How often do you scan social media, read a quick article, or answer an email when there is a lull in conversation (or even when there is not)? Though you are physically present, you are not mentally present. It’s apparent even when you are not face-to-face and have multiple IMs open or are answering dozens of emails, all of which are halfway completed.
This not only leads to poor communication but a poor experience to the receiver of that communication. One of the most important rules of coaching and communicating is to be present. Fully present. Everyone wants to feel important. Everyone wants to be that center of attention, if only for a few moments. By denying them that consistently, we are not doing ourselves or them a favor in building relationships, trust, empathy, and showing intent to help. This is how to build trust with teams, stakeholders, clients you name it. Show that you are interested and that you care – other things can usually wait. This is one of your most important steps to being an authentic servant leader.
I admit, I am not always fully present. Probably even most of the time I’m not – but I am trying to be more aware of it. There is one conversation that stood out to me a couple years ago that really made me think. I was talking to a good friend on the phone and was as usual lamenting about something. She stopped me at some point and said, “You know, you never ask me about me. That makes me feel like you don’t care.” It was an awakening. I didn’t realize I had been doing it (or not doing it). It must have been something I picked up from my parents always asking about me as a child (or maybe that’s just my justification). But it hit home, and it hit hard.
Now I make sure to make a conscious effort to always ask about the other person. Always ask them at least a few questions, because people love to talk about themselves. They love it when you are present and are engaged in what is going on with them (it works really well on dates, too). It shows that you care, it shows you are genuine. And when you are doing that, make sure you’re looking at them, not at a phone, computer, or someone else. Make the connection. Be present. Not everything has to cater to modern technology. If we lose touch with each other, we will most certainly lose touch with ourselves.