I’m ready for the day. My iPhone, iPad, laptop, and back-up batteries are fully charged, apps are updated, and cache is cleared. I’m ready to have an awesome day, positive that technology is not going to get in my way.
But then again… I sit at my desk wondering if the conversations I have with others through technology have the same meaning as they do in real life. Am I superimposing the technology on top of the relationship in order to justify its expense? I sometimes wonder, “How many more devices and social networking sites do I need to be connected to in order to have a meaningful connection?” And therein lies the rub: Should you try to tame technology for its intended purpose, or descend into in solitude with your devices?
Sherry Turkle, in her new book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, masterfully spells out how we as a society are losing our sense of connection with others because of roadblocks technology puts in our way. As an author of a recently published book about how to use technology to communicate in sales, this book hit me like a ton of bricks. So I wanted to share some takeaways that struck me here.
Disruptions during dialogue
The need to be instantly connected electronically has caused us to become somewhat schizophrenic. Take this scenario for example: Friend receives text message. You get upset and check your phone. Your friend is done and now waiting for you to be done with your phone. Rinse and repeat a few cycles and 10 minutes go by before you can continue where you left off. Sound familiar? These disruptions happen during get-togethers, remote meetings, and conference calls alike. Curb this self-induced behavior by powering off the device until the conversation is over so you can focus on what the other person is both saying and communicating via nonverbal clues.
Lost in the Facebook zone
It’s as if when we log into Facebook we enter a different world where we self-edit our true being for the self we want to represent online. This slot machine of posting updates and checking notifications for self-gratification has become more of a game to “see what’s missing” than nurturing real relationships. It’s easy to get lost in the daily minutiae of other people’s lives, and how you reflect upon it is a path leading directly to solitude. Instead, put in place rules for your participation: Implement an app that blocks usage for certain times of the day and ask someone to hold you accountable to use social media sparingly.
Lack of empathy when communicating
Terse typing is getting worse with technology. Time pressures with task assignments are leaving out the tact necessary to demonstrate your empathy for the other person when establishing a meaningful connection. Stepping outside your own inbox, it’s easy to see that “Thanks for sending me the notes on the presentation. Can you please send me the details on the final report?” is better than “Send me the details on the final report.” In real life, take that extra second to ask yourself, “How would I feel if I received this message?” before you hit send. It’ll help you add the empathy your recipient deserves.
Man against the machine
I’m fascinated with the psychology of how we humans interact with technology as opposed to interacting with one another. Those who struggle to form relationships with one another will find it easier to develop a relationship with a device enabled with artificial intelligence and machine learning. It’s happening right now in toy manufacturing, driverless cars, and the replacement of professional advisors who can simulate almost identical experiences that involve the human touch. The challenge for us in the future as these technologies become widespread will be to separate ourselves and our feelings from that which a technology can replicate.
The human touch in our industry
Real estate is primarily a face-to-face business, but when it’s appropriate much can be facilitated screen-to-screen. However, as you would let the buyer beware, I must warn you that too much of any one method has its disadvantages. I suggest that, as you examine how you relate to technology, always keep in mind the emotional connection with your customer. When that happens, your customer will know it, you will know it, and it will reveal the way to reboot and reclaim conversation as it happened before technology ever existed.