We live in a digital world. Texting, emailing, Skyping and using social media are just some of the most common ways to communicate today. Some people might argue that we are more “connected” than ever. The reality of our “connectedness,” however, is much different. In fact, thanks to new social norms, we are often less aware, less forthcoming and far less in touch with what makes us inherently human—the ability to communicate with poise and passion.
Have you ever heard of the seven percent rule? It states that communication is only seven percent verbal, that body language accounts for 55 percent of the message and that tone of voice represents the remaining 38 percent. If this is true, we may still be the only species with opposable thumbs, but if all we use them for is texting, we are missing 93 percent of the other person’s message.
Together, but isolated
The next time you’re in a restaurant or at a concert, take a look around. You will see people together, but isolated from one another. It has become more important to take a picture of your meal and “hashtag” it than it is to savor the flavor. It is more important to post a video from a concert than it is to sing along with the crowd. The same is true for a group of coworkers who sit in adjoining cubicles, but choose to Skype each other. Instead of enjoying a collective experience with their fellow humans, people are sharing the same physical space, but practicing social solitaire.
While it’s never fun to start an argument or deliver bad news, how we deal with confrontation says a lot about us. I have four teenage boys at home, and two share a room. The other day, one of the boys felt annoyed by the other, so he sent his brother a text, telling him to be quiet, even though the boys were literally sitting three feet apart. In the business world, employees frequently resign from their jobs via text or email. While digital communication is convenient, it breeds an inability to be courageous enough to confront others, and gives our peers an easy way to ignore us.
Rely on your five senses again
So, what can we do about this seven percent predicament? It’s simple—go back to experiencing life using your five senses. A simple “LOL” text can never replace someone’s unique laughter. Catch up with an old friend at a coffee shop so that you can experience a warm embrace and enjoy the aroma of freshly roasted beans. Be courageous enough to look someone in the eye and say, “I quit” or “I have a problem with your behavior.” Walk around the cubicle wall to communicate. When you show others that you have the audacity to show up, you are not only conveying 100 percent of your message, you’re being 100 percent human again—and that is hard to ignore.