Humans are hardwired to connect with each other using many different in-person cues including tone of voice, a lift of an eyebrow, a shake of the head, and other things we don’t quite understand like air pressure changes. But the nuance, emotion, and detail that helps us to understand deeply is mostly lost in our virtual world of email, telephone, webcams, text messaging, and online content. That’s a huge problem that leads to boredom, lack of clear communications, and perhaps even our increasingly polarized political world.
Fortunately, Nick Morgan has been studying these issues for the past several years and he writes about ways to break through and communicate well in his new book from Harvard Business Review Press releasing today Can You Hear Me? How to Connect with People in a Virtual World.
Human communications developed over thousands of years, but digital communications is new
We humans have learned to communicate over hundreds of thousands of years, evolving from cave dwelling days of grunts and gestures to modern day. Effective communication depends on emotional feedback from others and much of our most important communications over the eons by necessity focused on danger: Is that sound in the forest coming from something that wants to eat me? If so, I need to decisively warn the other humans.
But then we added, in just a few short decades, many new ways to communicate and our brains haven’t been able to keep up.
Nick’s fabulous book starts with an excellent overview of the human communications signals that are hardwired into all of us. The key here is to remember that we cannot change this because it is a part of each of us.
He then devotes a chapter to each of the major problems associated with virtual communications: lack of feedback, empathy, control, emotion, and connection. Nick then provides ways to combat the disconnects in each form of the common digital communications channels we use daily including email, text messages, phone calls, webinars, and web chat sessions.
Can You Hear Me?
These days we’re all communicating via digital channels both within organizations with tools like Slack and externally with email and social media. Miscommunications is common. Boredom is expected. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Fortunately, Nick’s great book comes right when we need it.
Next week I publish a blog post titled How to make Webinars more effective. I speak on these virtual presentations several times a month using software like Zoom, On24, Webex, and the like. I’ve been experimenting with how to make these events way more interesting for my audience and I got some great new ideas from the Webinar chapter in Nick’s new book.
Disclosure: Nick Morgan is my speaking coach and we have been working together for more than a decade. Since then Nick become a friend.