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Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: Communication has changed for the worse


I've noticed a concerning trend occurring over the last several years, and I feel it's an important one to address. Technology has changed the way we communicate and caused serious problems with the overall approach people take to interacting with each other.

Let's take email as the first example. Sure, email has been around for a long time and isn't anything new. But I have found people are hiding behind email more than ever. Instead of picking up the phone or stopping by someone's office in a business environment, people opt for communicating through their keyboard.

The Radicati Group, a technology market research firm in Palo Alto, Calf., estimates the average business email user will send and receive 115 messages per day in 2013. That is a staggering number. While email is a great communication tool for many business-related topics, how many of the 115 communications sent via email would have been more effective via phone or in person?

Email is great for certain types of communication. If you need to get a message out quickly to a large number of people, it's perfect. It's also great if you need to track and document specific types of communication. There are plenty of benefits to list, but that's not really the point.

I believe people tend to communicate differently when they are hiding behind a keyboard. People who are more passive tend to be more aggressive and pointed in email communications. They say things they wouldn't typically say to someone in person. It's almost like there is a sense of overconfidence and cockiness. Maybe it's me over analyzing it, but I find it to be an issue.

It's also extremely difficult to interpret emotion and tone in an email. And that is a major part of the problem.

I've been on the receiving end of emails where I've read the email and instantly felt like I was being attacked. And the same has been true for emails I've sent to people. They took them the wrong way and felt as though my message was too over the top or forward.

Along with email, we also have all of the other electronic forms of communication associated with social media tools. People communicate via the Internet more, and that has had a major impact on the way people interpret communication.

Then there is texting and other tools that allow people to communicate electronically from their cellphone. I am just as guilty of this as anyone. It's easy to send a quick text versus having a long, drawn-out conversation. Oftentimes if I'm busy or in a rush, I'll fire off a text message.

Whatever happened to picking up the phone and having a conversation with someone? Whatever happened to scheduling a meeting to have a face-to-face conversation? Whatever happened to a handwritten note to thank someone for something?

In the business world, electronic communication is critical. It's fast, inexpensive and an effective way to reach new prospects and customers. But electronic communication will never be as effective as an in-person meeting, phone call or handwritten note sent via snail mail.

While we all know electronic communication has many benefits and is here to stay, I hope the traditional and more effective forms of communication don't become a thing of the past.

Christopher Thompson (cthompson@catch22solutions.com) writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News.


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