One of my pet peeves is when, during a face-to-face conversation, one party feels the need to take out their mobile phone and scroll through their Facebook feed, check their emails, like a post on LinkedIn, respond to a Whatsapp message or update their Instagram with a photo of their food. Perhaps even all of the above.

While I take no issue with any of these actions per se, I can’t help but panic that our attention spans have shrunk so much that we can no longer engage in a good old face-to-face conversation for longer than the time it takes to type 140 characters without getting bored or disengaged.

Connected vs. Connection

In a world where we are considered more connected than ever before, to what degree have we lost the ability to truly connect with each other in the ‘real’ world? Or perhaps more importantly, on both a professional and personal level, what value do we place on interpersonal communication skills in the digital age?

Call me optimistic, but even as our world becomes increasingly digitised, I refuse to see a future where the need for strong interpersonal communication skills disappears altogether. After all, we are social beings at heart, so no matter how attached we are to our mobile devices I like to think that we all crave real, meaningful human connections both at home and at work. And it is these connections, I believe, that are best formed and nurtured face-to-face.

Our online conversations certainly play a role in helping to create and foster connections with people we may never have been introduced to before, but our connection with them will only go so far in the digital world. If the connection is to become more meaningful, there comes a point when the conversation needs to happen in person.

Now, I’m aware this might seem like a rather quaint – even antiquated – concept. But when you consider the personal and professional connections that you value the most, how do you communicate with each other? I’m sure you have transactional conversations through your preferred online channels, but I’d hazard a guess that your most meaningful interactions happen face to face.

Let’s get [inter]personal

Interpersonal communication is a skill that takes time, effort and self-awareness. The good news is you can take small steps everyday to help improve your skills:

  • When you’re next talking with someone, challenge yourself to put away your phone, be fully present and in the moment.
  • If you’re engaged in a long-winded email conversation, suggest that you meet up instead.
  • Why not take one of your established clients out for a coffee without any agenda other than to make sure you are still connecting.
  • Take the time to walk the floor and say hello to your employees in person; ask them questions about their work.
  • Mix it up! There’s a place (and a need) for both digital and interpersonal communication, so why not mix it up and get the benefits of both worlds?

Want to step up your interpersonal communication skills? Get in touch!

This blog first appeared as a guest post for Angela Denly Writing & Communication Services.