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Navigating the distance between emojis and social cues

Our work sometimes requires us to engage with work colleagues who may be at odds. I am amazed, and unnerved, by the number of people who figure they can just hop on a Zoom call, even with someone who works down the hall, to resolve the problem.

Communication in two dimensions has real limits. Psychology majors among you may remember Dr. Albert Mehrabian, whose second most well-known study concluded that as much as 93% of the information we convey has nothing to do with the words we use. Body language, voice pitch, intonation, and the like make up most of how we effectively communicate. So if a large part of the way we connect relies on an experience that involves physical presence, I worry deeply about those who depend on ones and zeros on a screen, far removed from the ability to discern subtlety, irony, obvious kindness, fear, and the other things we read from social cues. (And please do not tell me that emojis cover the distance!!)

Bottom line, real communication, and real conflict resolution is far more likely to be successful face-to-face. Sure, getting into the same room has been hard to do in a pandemic, and sure, it is easier to use computers in a world directed by convenience, but a relationship worth developing or sustaining is worth stretching for. When possible- and it is possible more frequently than you may remember- find a way to be in the physical company of someone with whom you really need to connect. There is real value in real communication!


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