The world of communications has undergone an amazing revolution.
I came up in print media, and now it is almost unrecognizable. Newspapers, magazines and other types of publications are all scrambling to stay abreast of where readers are headed. The Web and all the products now available to access it are great platforms to gain instant access to information, but print publications continue to struggle to find a way to serve this trend while remaining profitable. The truth is, you can only cram so many ads onto those tiny screens.
Today, the iPhones, Droids, BlackBerrys and iPads are all the rage, but there will be many more revolutions to come. The other day, somebody made fun of me for still using a traditional flip cell phone. You do feel as if you are out of date if you hang onto a technology for more than three years. I have entered the world of Facebook and LinkedIn, but there are new social media sites seemingly every day. Who would have thought that Twitter would lead so many people to send so many little messages to one another all the time? In your personal life, social media and texting are now the principal means of keeping in touch with friends and family. In business, if you aren’t using Facebook, Twitter and other social networking tools to promote your brand, you are likely going to be left on the sidelines.
Communicating with people and accessing information is easier than ever before; so why is it that so many people sense something lacking in their lives? I feel from everything I see, hear and read that more people feel isolated and out of touch than ever before. The answer is that there is something crucial missing from all these new modes of communication.
During a recent luncheon in Florida I was at table with a number of healthcare executives, and we got to talking about this new age of communications. Everybody at the table was jazzed about their new toys such as their iPads. I asked the group what was the first thing they looked at when they got home or to the office. Everyone looked puzzled for a moment, and then I suggested that it was likely to be a letter personally addressed to them. Everyone nodded in agreement! I told them I felt a personally written letter to someone denotes respect and intimacy. Today it is a lost art. Think of it: a letter takes discipline and thought, and the message that is contained in a written note demonstrates openness and sincerity.
Those are the roots of intimacy, which is that thing that is lacking in communications today. I know it's hard to believe, but many people today on the executive level still write personal notes to both colleagues and others when they want to make their point to the other person. They don’t send an e-mail or fax or use Facebook or tweet. They actually sit down and write a letter to get someone's attention.
Another, old-fashioned means of communicating is to reach out in person to someone else. Yes, I am talking about an actual face-to-face encounter. (Don’t be scared.)
One day a few years ago, my son called me to talk about the kind of day he was having. I could tell he was a little down, and he admitted as such, adding that he just didn’t feel connected to his work. I asked him when was the last time he had made a personal call on a customer. He said he hadn't been in the field for a couple of days because he had been in meetings. I then suggested if he truly wanted to get out of the doldrums he should make a personal call on a customer, which would probably revive his enthusiasm. When I hung up the phone I wasn't sure what he would do but later he called me to tell me had done exactly what I suggested. He told me he not only got additional business from his customer, but that the discussion they had over lunch dwelled on a lot of other matters which would probably mean further business in the months and years to come. To say my son was enthusiastic about his visit would be understatement.
When you miss seeing someone, do you think tweeting them is going to make you feel connected? Our personal lives are personal because of face-to-face interactions. We are all so busy today, and our means of electronic communications so easy that tossing off a text is often the course of least resistance. And yet, compare an e-mail exchange to sitting down to lunch with an old friend. That feeds our soul in a way no electronic communication does. A letter filled with attention to detail and emotion is something you keep. Who keeps old e-mails?
We all enjoy being treated with dignity and respect, and if someone takes the time to write us a letter or pay us a personal visit it shows caring, trust, respect and good manners. If you truly want to connect with another person, try the personal approach.