The Power of Face to Face ///

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vs. Digital ///

In the past 5 years there has been an increased awareness of the digital impact on socialization.  I’m sure you have seen an article or two.  How often have you compared the power of face to face conversation with a digital discussion?

I imagine many of us often see the difference.  We easily witness it in social media platforms.  How easy it is to disagree, argue, or even fight when you have time to process a thought.  Or, when you don’t have to be socially accountable to what you say.  Think about the last time you witnessed a text breakup.  Or even executed one.

That’s the thing…when behind text or a computer screen, social accountability changes.  Scientifically this is true.  Different hormones release when receiving feedback online vs. sitting across the table from someone.   The same applies to having a phone conversation or even a video conversation.  The reality is, nothing truly replaces having face to face dialogue.

My question isn’t about discussions on the plans of the evening.  I mean, when was the last time you compared the power of a difficult face to face conversation with a difficult digital conversation?  I recommend challenging yourself to observe how you respond in both.

My Visit ///

A week ago, I visited Rodney in L.A.  It was our first More In Common trip.  Sure, we had fun.  But it was filled with planning, meetings and recordings.  It was an awesome trip.

I had an opportunity to truly evaluate the answer to the question for myself.  We had our first collective face to face “interviews”.

If you aren’t already aware, I’m usually remote during our conversations.  Because many of our connections are west coast, I don’t get an opportunity to be in person.  Rodney is often there and I connect via Skype.

Skype is a great simulation of in person discussions.  However, many of us know, it isn’t the same.  See, I don’t test my conversation chops with strangers too often.  Being that my daughter is only 18 months, I work from home, and spend a lot of time on More In Common, I don’t get to interact with strangers.  And when I do, we don’t usually have difficult conversations.

That’s the beauty of M.I.C for me.  It gives us an opportunity to practice difficult conversations with people we don’t know.   And, this trip to L.A. was my first chance to test the power of face to face dialogue.

My Evaluation ///

Thus, I was paying attention.  Asking myself how I felt during an “interview”.  Evaluating how I respond to points I may not agree to.  Or, how comprehensive my responses are.

The answer to these questions is a toss-up.  A toss-up between poor and Ok.  I felt fine but responded…well, not as well as I would have wanted to.  I do believe listening is the #1 key to effective conversation. I think I’m pretty good at this through all mediums.

But I also think managing my response and opinion is important.  Doing so in a conversation is a release of thought.  Done so with the proper tact and respect to the dialogue.  It allows me to confront the discussion rather than harbor the opinion for a conversation later.  A conversation with myself or someone I know agrees with me.

In person, this is harder for sure.  Especially in the context of M.I.C.

My Connection ///

Managing a response doesn’t resolve disagreement.  Nor does it find unity in conversation.  Face to face dialogue makes this a lot harder for me.  Especially since I’ve grown so comfortable having these discussions remotely.

But, it is finding unity in conversation that is key.  It isn’t about agreement.  It is about understanding the other person.  Allowing the social hormones to release properly.  Taking the moments to process thought and engage appropriately.

My Conversations ///

During this visit I was fortunate to have some great conversations.  Conversations with people I would not otherwise engage.  Whether it was a recording or in a bar.  Doing this face to face was awesome for me.  It gave me the chance to realize I have work to do to maximize the impact of the dialogue.  Both received and given.

The best part was the unity of human connection.  Finding the common ground that allowed for differences.  Building the connections to engage in disagreement.   Disagreement on the details but unity on the experience.

This is the big difference in the power of face to face for me. I can find connection digitally, but more often with people I agree on the details.  Face to Face is based on the people I talk to not just the thoughts they have.

Certainly Skype has proven to be a viable substitute.  After all, I can’t meet everyone and these conversations are so valuable to me.  But, nothing replaces that face to face response.  Nothing replaces the ability to connect with people even if we have little agreement.

My Challenge ///

I really do look forward to the day More In Common can always be face to face.  In the meantime, my goal is to practice. Challenge myself to connect in person on difficult conversations.  To embrace the disagreement on details.  To get better for when all of More In Common is face to face.

Our friends at Table Talk do an amazing job embracing this challenge.  Promoting an environment that embraces this connection.

Thus, I challenge you to try the same.  Some are good at this and I commend you.  Try getting away from the computer or the phone to express these opinions.  Take opportunities to find the connection with difficult conversations. Manage your emotions to ensure they stay productive.  Find the unity of connection and see through the disagreement on details.

RodneyKeith Richardson