How to Really Connect with People

I love social media. I truly do. If I could marry it and have its babies I would.

Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. And a little creepy. But I am a big social media advocate. All the information, connections, conversations; it’s fantastic. Not to mention all the cat videos. I can honestly say some of the best things to happen in my life over the last few years can be directly linked back to my involvement in social media.

And the people! I love getting to sit face to face and chat with people that I have connected with online. And that’s what is really key to truly connecting with someone, getting that face to face time. Despite how technologically advanced our world is getting, it’s amazing the difference simply speaking to someone in person can make. And this goes beyond social media.

Think about it. You spend all day at your desk, whether you work in an office or out of your home and you connect with your colleagues over the phone, IM, and email. Some may be as close as 10 feet away, others in a different country entirely. You can spend all day working with people you have never met in person, and maybe never will. The future is now.

But all that technology, while cool, also has it’s limits. People are more than how they come across in email or IM. And it is so easy to misconstrue a person’s tone, intention, etc. from written communication. And if you’ve never met this person before, how likely are you to give them the benefit of the doubt that the last email they sent you wasn’t meant to be rude, but was just poorly written? It’s the Fundamental Attribution Error at work.

In my personal experience, when I am having a problem either communicating with or working with someone, meeting with them in person goes a long way to resolving the problem. The relationships usually get stronger and more productive as a result. People treat each other differently face to face, especially because then you don’t have technology to hide behind. Meeting in real life is just that, real. You can’t just ignore the other person and now you have more critical social cues like facial expressions and body language to rely on. But more importantly, you can start trying to relate to them on a personal level that is hard to achieve with technology alone.

Now, I’m not saying that speaking to someone face to face will make everything all sunshine and bunnies. You can have plenty of conflicts with the people you see everyday. And yes, some people are jerks, and yes, they did mean to be rude in that email. And, of course you can’t always meet up with someone face to face.

But if you can meet face to face, do it. And even if you can’t, just thinking about what you would say to someone in person versus email should be enough to give you pause when dealing with a difficult situation. Don’t let technology be a crutch or a shield that keeps you from building relationships at work. Get out from behind it and get real.

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

Shauna Moerke

Shauna is an HR professional with a diverse work history, a Master's degree, and a PHR certification. She is also a huge geek, social media advocate, and infectious giggler. Besides being a co-founder of the Women of HR she also serves as the current Ringmistress of the Carnival of HR, is the former co-host of the HR Happy Hour blogtalk radio show, and blogs at her own site as the HR Minion.

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