Hurry Up and Slow Down

2 Oct

For years now, communications in the workplace and in our personal lives have been firing on all cylinders.  Emails, texts, tweets, live video conferencing and more have led to a frenetic “now, now, now” mentality.   We receive a text and we reply immediately.   We fill even precious seconds of downtime with Outlook, Facebook, Words with Friends and Twitter.

I’ll admit it.  I see that little red dot on my Smart Phone, hovering over email and some cosmic force compels me… Must.  Click.  Button.   And, once opened, it’s difficult to sit back and leave my reply for another moment.    Instead, I shoot off a reply at the first opportunity, clearing one small task from an ever growing “to do” list.  It’s cyberspace tennis and we’re all just trying to ensure the ball lands in someone else’s court.

There’s no doubt that, at work and play, we are often blessed by this new ability to get our messages across quickly.  But, have we consequently lost the ability to provide thoughtful answers to the more important questions?   Are we putting important relationships at risk?  Do you know when to seek out a face-to-face meeting?  Do you know when to stop a text rally and pick up the telephone?

Clearly, there are times when we know to communicate more personally.   No one wants to be laid off by a boss, dumped by a girlfriend, or denied a raise over email. Email and text messages are ideal for succinct, clear, emotionless details sent between people with a mutual understanding of the relationship.   Sending a text or email allows us to focus on the “objective” of the message but not the human recipient.  There’s little room for relationship development, tone and emotional clarity in 140 characters or less.

The idea exists that showing emotion in the business world is a sign of weakness.   However, let’s keep these examples in mind.

  • Would you buy a car online?  Or, would you be more likely to buy it from a man who loved the vehicle so much that his eyes lit up when talking about a recent road trip?
  • Would you be more likely to help out a co-worker who walked into your office and humbly asked for assistance?  Or, would you help the one who asked over text message?
  • Would you be more motivated by the boss that looked you in the eye and gratefully shook your hand after a job well done?  Or, by the one who shot off an email later that night?

Think about it the next time you’re racing to get your message delivered.  There’s a time, a place and a need for speed in our lives.  But, there’s also great opportunity in taking the time to stop, think and put down the device.  Your message may not get there as quickly.  But, it might just get there more effectively.

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