The idea for this article started when a long-time friend of mine admitted that she’s much more comfortable texting someone than talking to them. “Even me?”, I wondered. She told me this, by the way, when I called her because I had grown tired of texting back and forth. So, I phoned her instead to have what I consider a ‘real’ conversation. I was surprised at first to hear her confession but then I started thinking about how we communicate and how it’s changed with advancements in technology.
I happen to know that my friend is not alone in her preference for text over telephone. In fact, research shows that many people prefer email, text, instant message or chat over talking—whether it’s on the phone, in person or through video. And it’s not just younger generations, though they are even more likely to feel this way. This shift is often cited as the reason for the growing number of people who feel lonely and isolated, or at least a significant contributor.
When I think about the different forms of communication, what they offer us and what they require, I can see why they impact us in different ways. Text, messaging, chat and email allows us to send information easily. We have a written record, and we can read and reply when we want. Because of this, they are good means for conveying information. They also can reduce the risks that come with a spoken conversation. We can control the dialogue better and minimize the potential for making mistakes. But it’s when we hesitate, stumble, lose words, say something wrong or feel vulnerable that we truly connect with others.
By spending less time talking to each other, we’re undermining the strength of our existing relationships and the potential for new relationships. This applies to personal relationships (ex. in dating, marriages and families) and professional relationships (ex. with clients and co-workers).
If you want to build and strengthen your relationships, spend more time talking to people. By choosing to talk to them instead of writing, you’ll be able to read them better through their voice and/or body language. It’s through talking to each other that we reveal ourselves, which allows us to know each other better. It also allows us to build trust, which can help us withstand the inevitable hiccups that happen in a relationship. Without trust, relationships are more likely to fall apart at the slightest difficulty.
I understand that some people find it awkward or difficult to talk to others. You may find comfort in being one step removed when using text, messaging, chat or email instead. But that distance can get in the way of truly connecting. As Brené Brown said, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Talking to people is one way we can choose to be courageous. So, let’s be brave and build better relationships.
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