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Connecting Versus Relating — The Disappearance Of Real Relationships

by David Brock on October 4th, 2008

There is a great post in the Slow Leadership blog on “Connecting Versus Relating.” It speaks to the breakdown of relationships, transforming them into transactions conducted through impersonal channels like email, messaging, Twitter, Blackberry’s and cellphones. I would also add many of the social networking media.

While these “tools” have made all of us much more accessible and available–the emotional connection is lost. Relationships—at least meaningful relationships are built on trust and emotional connections. The new ways we “connect,” while convenient, strips away that connection. It seems to me, the more we substitute these convenient ways to stay visible and “connected,” the more the true nature of the relationship erodes. Ultimately, we lose the connection, probably without knowing it and we continue the transactions.

These tools also create a shield that enables us to do things that are unthinkable in a real relationship–we can start shading the truth–which gives way to outright lying. We can avoid addressing tough issues head on, or we can do it in terribly insensitive ways. Not having to look someone in the eye, talk to them voice to voice, to understand the reaction limits us terribly.

Research indicates that 70% of communication is non verbal—most of us interpret this as “body language,” and other subtle clues we pick up in face to face communications. It would stand to reason the more we come to rely on maintaining relationships through non-direct ways, the more we lose in communications — and the more we lose in relationships and our ability to trust.

Our worlds, whether business or personal, are increasingly complex. We are all time poor. The new social tools and means of “connecting” add some convenience and speed to communication, these tools are only a complement to building and maintaining meaningful relationships.

We all fall victim to this. It is so easy to send a quick email or SMS. I recently reconnected with a colleague, responding to her invitation over Facebook with an message “glad to reconnect.” I got no response and started wondering why aren’t we really connecting —- and the answer is so simple —- I should pick up the phone.

I am having some “challenges” with a client—who also happens to be a good friend. We seem to be waging electronic war, or at least I seem to be, to resolve a difficult business issue. The other day, he yelled “uncle” electronically —- I got an email — “Dave, a phone call would work…. “

We are actually both guilty. We both let the safety of hiding behind email help us avoid a difficult conversation — but one that will quickly resolve the situation. Doing that has damaged our relationship — but hopefully not irreparably. I need to give Bill a call!

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