Glenn Stok acquired strategic management skills for organization, planning, and policy development from his employment and his own business.
Proper face-to-face communication is a vital part of our social skills. Clear and precise communication is necessary for success in many human endeavors.
Communication in person is crucial for clarity and full understanding. It provides better interaction with more successful results.
Avoiding direct contact is a detriment to successful communication. Missing nonverbal cues, such as the sense of approval from a facial expression, can result in missed opportunities.
Let's look at the benefits and techniques of face-to-face communication. I'll describe methods of having a meaningful conversation.
Loss of Social Skills
Today people are losing their social skills because of the ease of quick correspondence by telephone, smartphone, email, instant messaging, and texting.
Face-to-face conversations have become less frequent. People call one another when they need a quick answer to a question or schedule or confirm an appointment. People rarely call one another to have a meaningful conversation. They call to chat, but nothing that's serious.
The Benefits of a Face-To-Face Conversation
Face-to-face conversations provide the ability to get to know one another in a way that cannot be achieved remotely.
Communication via letters, text, or email is not as effective as face-to-face discussions because the sentiment and emotion are not conveyed.
People need to be face-to-face so they can see each other’s reactions. Words can be misconstrued via text, because text leaves out visual means of communication that are so important for understanding, such as body language.
In a face-to-face conversation, one can see nonverbal communication, such as facial expressions, body posture, and gestures. That conveys information that one cannot detect from words alone.
Visual Feedback With Communication
Body language adds to verbal communication when having a face-to-face conversation. There are many clues to how one feels about the discussion.
Sometimes one can even tell if the other person is not truthful by the way they handle eye contact. If one avoids eye contact, that may indicate that they are hiding something or that they are not honest.
However, cultural differences need to be taken into consideration too. In some cultures, it is considered a sign of disrespect for a young person to make eye contact with an elder.
Gestures and Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal communication is only possible in face-to-face conversations because of the advantage of seeing one's body language and having eye contact.
Hand gestures are an additional common aspect of verbal communication. However, this may be detrimental to a discussion if having a conversation with someone of a different culture.
For example, pointing at something with one finger is considered rude among Asians. It is similar to our middle finger salute. Asians usually point using their entire hand.
How Technology Affects Social Interaction
Before computers were used for communication, people used to get together at community gatherings to discuss public affairs and make plans for social activities.
Today, with email, instant messaging, texting, and other methods of group communication that computer technology provides, people don’t need to leave the house or office any longer for community or company meetings.
The technology makes it so easy to communicate that people use it to share messages on social media sites and send info via global mailing lists instead of getting together in real life.
That is our modern-day society in which we live, and it causes people to lose the ability to function in a face-to-face environment.
Awkward Silence With a Lull in Conversation
Have you ever experienced those awkward moments when there is a lull in the conversation?—when all of a sudden, nobody seems to have anything further to say?
I find it can happen even when the conversation is flowing well. Suddenly nothing new is added, and everyone seems to go into a trance.
When a lull in the conversation happens, I am usually the one to break the silence. I bring up anything new to talk about that comes to my mind, to keep the conversation going. The trick is not to think too much about it. Otherwise, a more extended period of silence occurs.
Whatever you think of to break the silence doesn't even have to be the same subject. Most people don't even notice that the subject has changed, and they just continue along the new thought path. I wonder if I'm the only one who knows what just happened when I do that.
Techniques for a Meaningful Face-to-Face Conversation
The advantages of face-to-face conversation outweigh the disadvantages as long as one uses proper techniques.
- Pay attention to visual feedback.
- Hear what's being said, and respond if you don't understand something.
- As a speaker, pay attention to body language that might indicate disinterest or confusion.
Visual feedback is useful. It's useless to keep talking if you observe that the listener is not interested. They may be fidgeting or looking away. Respond to that appropriately by changing the topic or by giving the listener time to speak. This interaction makes a face-to-face conversation much more meaningful.
As a listener, show you're interested and have a desire to understand when you missed the point. If the speaker didn't make something clear, bring it up before it gets lost in further discussion. Ask questions, interject, but let the speaker complete a thought too.
Face-To-Face in Business and Personal Encounters
A face-to-face conversation is an absolute requirement for collaborating on a business venture or for asking one's boss for a raise. You wouldn't even consider asking for a job promotion without doing it face-to-face, would you?
That is especially helpful in a sales interaction, for example, where visual feedback of body language is so valuable. A top-notch salesperson uses body language to know how to proceed with a sales pitch.
Customer service is also best-performed face-to-face since all the visual cues can be picked up and responded to appropriately. A customer may be frustrated about a product or may have a service question. Visual feedback shows quickly if he or she understands the help one is providing.
Personal conversations among friends are enhanced and appreciated when using the same techniques I've described. When one realizes more meaning from discussions with friends, they will want to get together more often for an enjoyable chat.
A face-to-face conversation is also useful for having insightful discussions of mutual interest. Before Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, people had no choice but to get together when they wanted to have a conversation. Social skills were enhanced since people were accustomed to the art of conversation.
With the Internet and smartphones, many people are hiding behind their devices. Let's not lose that vital part of human communication that only face-to-face can provide.
© 2012 Glenn Stok
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on January 24, 2016:
letstalkabouteduc - That's a very good point you made. In addition to knowing you got your message through when face to face, you also have the opportunity to see the response, facial expression, etc. This feedback is priceless.
McKenna Meyers on January 24, 2016:
Yes, face-to-face is better, and I recently learned that the hard way. When I was having problems at work, I communicated with my boss in writing. I thought it was more professional and business-like. Besides, she could read it when she had time, absorb the contents, and then get back to me. There was one problem with this, though. I assumed she read what I had written, but she never had.. or, at least, not completely. When you communicate face-to-face, you know your message has been received and that's key. You can never be sure when you send a letter or e-mails that they were read or that the seriousness of the matter was conveyed.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on May 11, 2013:
LCDWriter - In some cultures it's not acceptable to look an elder in the eyes. Things are different everywhere. Thanks for sharing your feelings with me and for your comment.
L C David from Florida on May 11, 2013:
I am painfully shy although I do a good job of covering it up most of the time.
But I have a really hard time keeping eye contact when I'm talking to people--not really for any reason other than I find myself growing uncomfortable.
This is great advice for anyone trying to have a good conversation using positive body language.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on February 28, 2013:
MsDora - You made some interesting and important points. Thanks for adding those additional advantages of face-to-face communication. And thanks for the vote up too.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 28, 2013:
Perhaps, we are old-fashioned who still believe in the importance of face-to-face communications. In addition to all that you said, how else can you enjoy the beauty of a smile, or the sense of approval from the wink of any eye (even in a business relationship)? Voted Up and Useful!
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on November 02, 2012:
I know what you mean about how people can mistake text messages for what was meant. This is because they don't have the visual feedback or the auditory feedback that displays the speaker's emotions. So they have to interpret that from the text. Based on their own feelings and present moment experiences, they can very easily get that wrong.
I appreciate your feedback, thanks.
Nique from Philadelphia County PA on November 02, 2012:
You are correct. I had seen lack of communication happen a thousand times. At restaurants, clubs, office buildings, while driving even at work people tend have their face/noses searching the web, texting, messaging, facebooking etc. It can be very frustrating to know that customer service is so bad these days. Maybe technology is the reason why.
Within a conversation I do feel the need to have face to face interaction. There has been plenty of times I'd sent text messages that had been mistaken as hostile. So I tend to try to talk things out, face to face when necessary.