Take a look around on your journey to work. What do you see? I personally see a train so busy it is hard to even move (London life!). Now, listen. What do you hear? Complete silence. All I can hear is the train moving along the tracks. Given, this is 7.30 in the morning and half of the commuters are still probably half a sleep pondering about the day ahead of them, maybe already counting down until their lunch hour. But how can such a compact space with a high concentration of people be so silent? People are barely looking each other in the eye. What do they all have in common? They are all busy looking down at their smartphone devices, or plugged into their MP3’s, some even laptops. Being a digital marketer by profession I am all for this technological innovation, but when does technology start getting in the way of basic human interactions?
Writing this as a millennial, I feel I am a rare exception amongst my generation to still be able to interact with people I do not know, which has served me well amongst networking events and being able to put myself across well at work as well an interviews. But something that is becoming clear to me is my generations’ constant need to be on their phones, especially when they are in a social situation. Technological addiction is overtaking social interaction to the point that younger generations simply do not know how to socialise away from their virtual worlds. Next time you’re at the pub, take a look. I can guarantee there will be a group of people sitting together, not actually talking, but instead busy tapping away on their phones. If we are constantly allowing our virtual worlds to distract us from the physical, how will we ever truly be able to sustain relationships both in the work place and socially? Thousands of years of evolution have meant we need this physical social interaction to determine who our friends and long term partners will be. How can this be translated over a text message, email or social media?
Here are my top tips to break this cycle and build better relationships both in the working world and your personal lives;
- Take yourself out of your comfort zone– Once a week put your phones away and start a conversation with a complete stranger. Sometimes you may get nothing back, but there have been times I have found this really rewarding. I have built my best working contacts and had some of my best experiences in life so far through talking to people on a train journey. You will be surprised at how easy this will become the more you do it.
- Try and make working meetings in person- Work meetings are more and more becoming an online arrangement through Skype and other platforms. Whilst I agree, this can be the most efficient way of conducting one; a face is more easily forgotten over a computer. Try to make an effort to meet with people once a month in person; it can make much more of an impact.
- Go to as many networking events as possible- Yes, there are networking groups on LinkedIn, but find a networking society in your field of work. Where you are in a room full of people you do not know, you will be forced to practice your interactive skills in what you would normally find a uncomfortable situation. You will make much more of an impression this way as well if you are trying to find a job.
Keeley Knight is a marketing student at Hertfordshire University, and an intern at Executive Voice. She is particularly interested in improving face to face communication skills for Millennials; although she is an avid fan of digital marketing, she sees the power or developing business relationships through face to face connections.