Recently I attended a meeting where the speaker raised a concern that people of my generation like to use email for communication. She felt this is a problem because you lose the look of the person as they are conveying the message as well as the way they would say it if they could be heard. And while I love seeing people in person, at the same time one of my favorite things is learning about people without the baggage. Here’s what I mean.
I’m a gamer. I play with people all over the country and periodically in other countries. Our main way to communicate is through a small chat window. You have to convey your thoughts, feelings and meaning in this little bitty window while all this other stuff is going on. The amazing thing is in doing so, you absolutely get a sense of who the person is, how they think, how they will react in a given situation, and form your judgment of the individual strictly on what they actually SAY. Gone are the preconceived notions of male and female, old and young, etc. The person you are talking to may be a three foot tall male gnome but behind the keyboard, it is me. Or, that seven foot tall chick with a tail is actually a 13 year old boy who will log off in a minute to do his homework. You just don’t know!
It is so amazing to form relationships this way. I’m not saying people should get married, send money, etc. but just getting to know a person this way really does ground the relationship in who the other person is. So when you do meet them it isn’t the same as meeting a stranger – the people I’ve met in real life I’ve known better than many people I’ve worked with over the years. Just because I couldn’t pick them out of the crowd doesn’t mean a thing. It is also an amazing way to decide you don’t like someone. Jerks come through loud and clear and where you might dismiss their bad behavior at a meeting or some function where you could see them, they learn quickly that being a jerk isn’t tolerated and they either learn how to behave or they burn through groups all over the game.
The speaker was very concerned about this phenomena but I say this is just another way to communicate. I’m sure when the phone came around there were people concerned we would lose our ability to speak face to face. Considering I’ve been to 4 meetings in the last 5 business days that had over 100 people in attendance and three of the four had over 200, I think we’re okay there. Instead, I would encourage people to learn how to say what they mean and mean what they say. And embrace new ways to communicate!