Communication technologies have never been better. We fire off texts throughout the day. We're able to respond to emails just moments after we get them. We share intimate parts of our lives on social media. In short, we feel connected. Are we, though?
My business is run entirely online. I'm proud to mentor students from across the country and throughout the world. We stay in touch primarily through email and phone. Over time, I feel like I get to know them pretty intimately. But an experience the other day took me by surprise.
A student who lives on the East Coast was having trouble sorting out manufacturing issues. After months of moving his project forward together, if you had asked me, I would have told you I thought we had a great working relationship. Then everything changed: We video-conferenced on Skype.
Seeing his face. Actually seeing how committed he was. I'd heard the determination in his voice, but seeing it in his eyes? It changed everything for me. I'd been working hard for him but after looking him deep in his eyes, I realized I needed to do more. I wanted to do more. I could feel his pain. His pain became my pain in a way that took me completely by surprise. And our relationship was changed for the better because of it.
I thought I had really gotten to know him, but in truth, I hadn't. I didn't even realize what I had been missing!
The power of looking someone in the eye cannot be underestimated. If you use Skype, turn on your camera. If you don't use Skype, change that! Use it build a bond. You can have a perfectly functional, even good working relationship with someone using less intimate forms of communication technologies. But I encourage you to go a step further. Be vulnerable. Let the person see you.
Working with people who are in different locations requires dedication, there's no doubt about it. My team and I have been hosting our weekly meetings on Skype video for years now. But this experience led me to the conclusion I should use it even more often. We feel like we're sharing the same office, which is priceless. Why wouldn't I want to cultivate that same sense of closeness with the other important relationships I maintain?
At the end of the day, we're communicating more, but I wouldn't argue we're communicating better. Whenever you can, strive to be personal. The results may surprise you.