If you have to deliver bad news, writing an email is easy, talking on the phone is a little harder, and face-to-face is the most gut wrenching, right?
It probably wouldn’t take you long to find an email you wrote to someone whom you disagreed with on something. Now imagine you spoke to that person using the same words you wrote? Chances are you wouldn’t.
It is so much easier to disregard the effect of your actions on other people when you don’t have to be present to watch those actions play out. That’s why we can write a nasty email then immediately shut our computer down and go to bed. We don’t have to manage that person’s reaction because we won’t be there for the uncomfortable moment.
Face-to-face relationships change our behavior more than anything. We have the ability to read body language and facial expressions with uncanny accuracy. So when we don’t have to worry about someone else’s true feelings, we act more robotic, direct and without compassion.
This then leads to the conclusion that if you had to tell someone that you failed a goal you were pursuing, telling them face-to-face would be harder to do than doing it via the keyboard. As Margaret Heffernan wrote, “People we see and know and care about have a more compelling pull.”
There is no technology effective enough to overcome the gap created by being physically apart from the person you are communicating with. If you want your relationships to have more meaning and to carry more weight, make sure you spend some face time with people.
Technology can maintain relationships but it won’t build them.