Strangers No More
April 25th, 2012 by DTopus
Sherry Turkle, communications professor at MIT, wrote a fabulously relevant article in last Sunday’s NY Times warning us that we are over-connected through technology and under-connected in person. She says that the best, highest-quality relationships require the richness and chemistry that only face-to-face interaction permits. And that the skills of interpersonal communication are being all but lost as we become more isolated from one another. I am reminded of what Warren Buffet once asked in encouraging business owners to use his private jet company. “Ever give a firm handshake over a speaker phone”? He could have asked the same question relative to the internet. You don’t have to be a social scientist to recognize this sea change in communication. We need only look around; for that matter, we need only look in the mirror, because we’re all doing it!
For some, this shift to technology-based relationships is troubling. From my perspective, it creates all kinds of opportunity. As I point out in my book, Talk to Strangers; How Everyday, Random Encounters Can Expand Your Business, Career, Income and Life“, even as we have our faces buried in our computer and smartphone screens, most of us are available for human interaction — maybe even more than ever. We just have to penetrate the very thin veil of isolation. When we do, we find there is all kinds of potential in the people we encounter throughout our day. So while Professor Turkle has it right — there is a de-emphasis on face-to-face communication — this sociological shift also creates opportunity for those who know how to break through the veneer of “stranger-ness”.
Online connecting will get us a friend on Facebook, a contact on Linked In, a follower on Twitter. But if we want a relationship of consequence; one that actually leads to a better job, a new client, a strategic partner, an angel investor — it will probably happen in person, and we are just as likely to find it waiting in front of us at the Starbucks, next to you on the plane, or behind you on the supermarket checkout line. At that point it’s just about opening our mouths and saying something intelligent and engaging. The other person is probaby just as hungry for human interaction and communication as we are, and that’s why knowing how to communicate face-to-face, person-to-person, is oh so important in a world that is going digital.