Mike Lisagor

OPINION

Don't discount the power of an old-fashioned conversation

I appreciate the ability to share vital information and coordinate activities using email, texts and Facebook. But, as a result of some previous challenging interpersonal relationships, I have also learned that when it comes to the lively world of human emotions, blogger beware!

Buddhist scholar Daisaku Ikeda has said, "We live in the midst of a flood of soulless information. And, the more we rely on one-way communication...the more I feel the need to stress the value of the sound of the human voice. The simple but precious interaction of voice and voice, person and person, the exchange of life with life."

There was a time in the 1990s, when no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get along with one of my work colleagues, "Bob." Bob had a way of getting under everyone's skin -- especially through the tone of his emails. My responses, which seemed so innocent and compassionate at the time, only made him more antagonistic.

I reflected a lot about this relationship and received encouragement from an advisor to close my eyes and imagine that I was someone whose compassion I greatly respected talking to my coworker. Instead of firing off a quick email response to yet another angry message that had landed in my inbox, I visualized Ikeda walking from my office down to Bob's and, using a very warm voice, asking him how he was doing. I realized then that this was the caring attitude I needed to manifest to help bring out Bob's own compassion.

The very next day, Bob and I ended up waiting for a government official in a conference room. I asked him how his family was doing. He said his teenage daughter had been diagnosed with diabetes a year before and had been refusing to take her insulin treatments. This was causing their family a lot of stress. I mentioned to him that it was also a very difficult time for me because Most Beautiful One, my wife of 45 years, had recently been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. With this heart to heart sharing, Bob and I went from a relationship built on distrust to one of mutual respect. I have never forgotten this experience.

According to researchers, 7 percent of our communications is what we say, 38 percent is the way we say it - rate, tone and inflection - and 55 percent is our body language before, during and after we say it.

So, what we write to one another needs to be extremely concise to be correctly understood. E-mail, texts and social media posts are missing the crucial sounds of a human voice and the visual context clues that let us know what the sender is feeling and if the recipient is greatly upset, mildly peeved or encouraged.

It often takes person-to-person dialogue to understand someone else's true intention and to improve a negative situation. It is one of the ways I try to create harmony in my surroundings.

When I feel compelled to write an emotional e-mail or text, I send it to myself and reread it the next day before forwarding it to others. By taking time to reflect, I can ask myself why I don't just call the source of my frustration rather than slinging a one-sided written message. Such barbs are impossible to recall and can cause considerable damage. How do I know if the recipient really understood what I meant if I can't see or at least talk to that person?

It takes our collective wisdom to use the full spectrum of human communication channels to build healthy relationships, communities and organizations. So, the next time I have the urge to send some angry written words off into the World Wide Web, I will make a phone call instead.

About the Author

Mike Lisagor (Mike.Lisagor@govprop.com) is a GOVPROP.com co-founder and chief knowledge officer.

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