In a world where we communicate through text messaging, social media and emails, we often forget the benefits of face-to-face interaction. Being able to edit, alter, or filter anything we send to another person or group may seem like a blessing, but ultimately it can become a curse if you don’t pepper in human interaction. Next time you start drafting an email, consider delivering the message in person. Here are a few reasons why:
Be a better manager and team member:
As a manager, I’ve tasked myself to get up and talk to my team members as much as I can. By making the time for face-to-face interaction, I open the doors for them to speak their minds. It’s a common habit (especially with junior level folks) to default to communicating by email when tasked with delivering important or controversial messages, both internally and to clients – usually a tactic meant to avoid any chance of follow-up questions. But by hiding behind emails, and therefore not making yourself vulnerable, you’re not as apt to grow. I’d rather approach my team by asking in person, “What do you really mean by that?” so they can be empowered to take the lead on finding a solution, and they can work on improvising in real time, which is one of the most important skills in any work environment.
How many times have you received a text from someone and misread it, assumed the worst, and then found out later it wasn’t meant in a bad way at all? No? Just me? The same applies in the professional world. Many PR professionals choose email to be more efficient, but oftentimes those emails can be so short and to the point the sender comes across as disinterested, curt or even annoyed. Walking over to ask your manager to clarify his or her message may seem to take more energy than staying put in your seat, but you’ll end up finding solutions much quicker than if you sit at your desk trying to decipher an email for 20 minutes.
…Which brings me to my next point. You WILL accomplish more, and be more efficient, if you talk to someone in person. As Mina Chang at Forbes mentioned in an article last spring, “If you’ve ever been on the bad side of cyber miscommunication, you’ll agree that faster isn’t always better. When I find myself anxious to rush through an interaction, I repeat the mantra of ‘Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.’” Let me clarify: I don’t mean having more meetings. I’m talking about or the impromptu “let’s talk it through” when you need to come to a solution fast. This is especially important when there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, which happens on some of our larger accounts: By hashing it out in person, you’ll be able to come to a consensus and move on to the next step much faster than if you’re waiting for everyone to respond to an email.
Every communications professional sets goals to build genuine relationships with media and influencers. While you can go back and forth with a reporter on email and start to feel like you “know” each other, would you feel comfortable saying hello if you saw him or her in the Starbucks across the street from your office? Simply put, make time to get to know the people you’re pitching. Invite them to the office for a quick meeting, ask to take them out for lunch, or see if they’d be open to sharing a Lyft to the next event you’re both attending. The same goes for clients: Your clients will respect and enjoy working with you more if you offer them facetime.
In this digital age, I encourage you to get away from the filters and communicate in person on a daily basis. Set a goal of substituting at least one email a day with a face-to-face conversation, or try to meet with a client or reporter once every few weeks. I will admit it’s not easy at the beginning: I’m naturally an introvert and talking to someone in person felt so scary at first, so why would I make myself vulnerable when I could carefully craft a flawless email? I promise that it’ll get easier: Just like going to the gym and feeling those workouts becoming easier each week, you’ll discover your own voice, establish stronger relationships with the people you work with, and be more efficient – so that you’ll have extra time to spend on finding the perfect filter for your Instagram photo.