Why we need to talk to each other, now more than ever

man and woman talking, coffee, communication

Technology is stripping the soul out of the way we communicate, and we desperately need to put it back.

Did you know that 62 per cent of all adults, and 78 per cent of those aged 25 – 34, said they could not live without their mobile phone. (Source: Ofcom, 2018) Not that some things would take longer or be less convenient. But that life would feel impossible without their phone.

Or that, on average, an adult in the UK will spend two hours and 28 minutes online on their smartphone every day. Add that up over the course of a year and it comes to a shocking 37.5 days. That’s more than a month spent online on your smartphone, day and night!

And a staggering 71 per cent of adults say they never turn off their phone. If this is you, it means you’re constantly ‘switched on’, ready and waiting for the next interruption.

Is this really a good use of our time?  Does this help us build meaningful relationships with each other? Does it help businesses create the strong staff teams they depend on? And does it help us build safe, supportive and inclusive societies?

I say no.

Digital life is harming our well-being, our economy and our society

There’s a growing body of evidence to support this, such a recent study from the US-based  American Pew Research Centre. In 2018 they found that, while technology undoubtedly has its benefits, at the same time it is harming our focus, memory, judgement, creativity, critical thinking and mental resilience.

They also suggest that our growing dependence on technology means we’re becoming more socially isolated and our interpersonal relationships are not as strong.

Yet, we’re humans so we’re relational. We have a fundamental need to make genuine connections with other people. We need to feel valued, rewarded and inspired by our conversations with others.

But too often, the way we communicate today prevents us from doing this. It prevents us from being human.

Think about what happens when you email, text or use a messaging app. You do it in isolation, behind the barrier of a screen, with no non-verbal cues and clues, from your own perspective and from a device which constantly offers up distractions.

It’s impersonal. And strong, productive, human relationships are not built from what’s impersonal.

By contrast, when you communicate in a way that makes a genuine human connection you create trust. Simple things such as eye contact, body language and active listening all show the other person that you value both them and the discussion you’re having.

In 2018, The Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed senior executives, managers and junior staff. 88 per cent of those who responded said face-to-face communication is an effective way to share information and help them understand it. 71 per cent said more face-to-face meetings would have a significant impact on improving communication between colleagues. Yet only 22 per cent said they have face-to-face meetings every day.

These days, the triple bottom line – that of people, profit, planet – is common practice for every business that takes its corporate social responsibility seriously. It reflects our new focus on doing business in a way that is good for everyone, in the long term.

To be successful, this approach depends on effective communication. Yet all too often we overlook the power and value of effective communication.

It’s good to communicate with heart and soul

Genuine human contact is something we will always do better than technology. It’s what makes us who we are.

One easy and immediate way you can make your communication more human, and therefore more effective, is to take it offline. Do this and you’ll connect with people in  a much more powerful, rewarding and lasting way.

If the thought of putting down your smartphone or turning off your email is daunting, we have a few tips that will help make it easier for you.

  1. Turn off your notifications, or at least some of them.
  2. Try coming offline every day – even if it’s just for half an hour. Gradually build up the time you’re offline until you can happily spend an afternoon, or even a whole day, without constantly checking your phone.
  3. Challenge yourself to keep your phone in your pocket when you’re out and about or at work. Gradually build up the time you wait before you check your phone again. It’s like building up an underused muscle: the more you do it the easier it will become.
  4. Don’t rely on emails, texts and instant messages to keep in touch at work or with your friends and family. Go and see people or call them on the phone instead.
  5. Don’t use your tablet or computer to watch television or catch up on work in bed. Use the time before sleep to read, or do something else that doesn’t require the internet!

For more advice on how to break your online habit and connect with people again, download our free guide, Take if Offline: How to break your online habit (and why you should). You can use it yourself and help others by sharing it with your friends, family and colleagues.

Miti AmpomaAbout the author

Miti Ampoma is known as the Mary Poppins of the C-suite. She is an award-winning communications specialist, author and the founder and director of Miticom, a communications training company on a mission to change business for the greater good.

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