Unconsciously, I’ve fallen into a terrible trap, all of it has been a result of trying to maximize my efficiency, managing my time more effectively.
I’ve started to rely on email, texting, DMs in Twitter and all sorts of other tools as the primary mechanism to engage with clients, colleagues, and people in the community. It’s terribly convenient and very efficient. I can group my communications to times convenient for me. Since I only do email about 3 times a day, I only do twitter twice a day, I can block and schedule the time to interact and engage in ways that are most effective and efficient for me. I forget, however, is this what’s most effective for the person I’m trying to engage?
Beside the convenience of asynchronous communication, there’s a detachment. I can take my time, constructing the right response. I can focus on what I want to focus on, perhaps missing what the other person wants to focus on. Inevitably we go through the “ping-pong” of messaging back and forth, ultimately narrowing down on the “issues.” Email subject lines, ultimately, look like, “Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:….”
In the name of efficiency, I’ve fallen into this terrible trap. Ironically, what I’m trying to achieve is deep engagement and interaction with the other individual, but I’ve re-learned, this is not what deep interaction is about!
Ultimately, deep interaction and engagement is about synchronous communication. The give and take, the back and forth, the shared learning and discovery that comes from conversation. All of that occurring in real time!
I’ve discovered, perhaps re-discovered, something remarkable about voice to voice, or face to face conversations. We–the other person and we accomplish so much more than we do otherwise. Through conversation, through deep interaction, we get to the point, we focus on the critical issues, and we actually make progress.
The amazing thing, it moves both of us forward faster and more effectively. And the quality of what we have accomplished is far superior than an endless stream of emails, messages, texts, where we “talk” past each other and really engage.
As I reflected on the bad habits I’d fallen into, I realized, I was hiding behind the tools–hiding behind email, messaging tools, LinkedIn, Twitter. I could appear very busy and active, I could be “communicating” with a lot of people about a lot of things, but we weren’t tackling the tough issues. Or if we did, the email put some “distance” or “buffer” into the communication. Likewise, people were hiding out from me, leveraging the tools to avoid confronting some of these tough issues, avoiding deep engagement and interaction.
I’ve adopted, new habits. Or perhaps rediscovered some things that I had ignored in my rush to adopt the latest greatest technologies to make me more efficient.
The reply button on email, the DM in Twitter, the text message has become my communication tool of last resort.
As I process email, rather than replying, I pick up the phone. I respond in real time (or as close to real time) to that person. If that person isn’t available, I leave messages and call them again. Something funny is happening. They are rediscovering the phone was well. They are rediscovering how powerful a synchronous conversation, where both of us our deeply engaged, enables us to accomplish so much more.
I’m getting more work done, I’m becoming much more effective and I’m not giving anything up in efficiency. The people I’m talking to are discovering the same thing.
The phone may be very old school, but I don’t care. What’s important to me, and the people I talk to, is engagement. It’s conversations where we discuss the issues, we agree on next steps and move forward in one discussion. We are getting more done, at a higher level of engagement/quality, in less time.
The derivative benefit–my email load has gone down. I no longer have to wade through a long stream of “Re: Re: Re: Re Re: ……”