Nonverbal Cues in the 21st Century

The more impersonal communication gets, the more we remember the need for personal contact.

While technology has many great features, it can often distill communication down to text messages, emails, or instant messages. These really can help manage spread out workforces or enable people to work from home, but they also prevent us from reading each other’s nonverbal behavior. This does more than just prevent effective communication and can even prevent the development of trusting and empathetic relationships.

A 2012 study found that when comparing impersonal communication with face to face interaction, there were measurably different neurological responses in the brain. Moreover, the study authors concluded that the neurological effects unique to face to face dialogue may be crucial to successful interactions.

These neurological findings fit closely with the first hand experiences of a variety of entrepreneurs. For instance, Max Brown, the founder of Silicon Beach Trust emphasized the trust building aspects of in-person interaction: “Overall the biggest value of face time is that it’s really the only legitimate way to build trust with someone.”

This notion of trust proved crucial to other testimonials. Anna Barber, the managing director for Techstars, stressed the need for trust to mediate possible interpersonal conflicts. Barber contended that without trust “you won’t have a basic mutual empathy and understanding to fall back on when you hit the inevitable bumps that arise.”

Barber also emphasized that creative problem solving is much better employed while in the same room than when relying on phone calls or emails.

With such a wealth of benefits for in-person communication, it is a little concerning to see a tendency towards less personal methods of cooperation. However, the notion that all young people eschew conversation in favor of texting doesn’t seem to be correct.

Perhaps surprisingly, a 2016 survey found that 55 percent of millennials actually do prefer in person communication! That said, this is not a particularly overwhelming majority.

Followers of this blog will have already made the connection between in-person communication and either nonverbal behavior or microexpressions. We have found repeatedly that both are critical in really understanding a person, either by recognizing their underlying emotional states or by telling more effectively if they are lying to us.

While we cannot help you emphasize in-person communication, check out our past blog here about the power of reading into the sound of a voice, or just get better at handling the face to face conversations that are so important.

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