For years I have used my writings to advocate the power of networking, and have gone so far as to acknowledge that most of the success I have had in life is due to my ability to network. I have never thrown a business card away. I even carry a small recorder with me at all times to record some simple highlights of a conversation so that I can document it at a later time, as the old memory is not what it once was, and the gems gleaned from impromptu conversations are sometimes the most valuable.
con·ver·sa·tion: känvərˈsāSHən/ noun: conversation; plural noun: conversations
1. The informal exchange of ideas by spoken words.
Talking With Technology
With the growing prevalence of technology and social media such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, ‘Schmitter’, or whatever text-infested new app they come up with, many have lost the social skills or the ability to carry on a good conversation without the assistance of technology. Consider how this might hinder potential for true networking. It has become far too easy to fire off a faceless email or a text devoid of character rather than pick up the phone and call someone, or better yet, schedule some time for a face-to-face meeting.
Without the related reference of tone-of-voice, or even the hint of a facial expression, you are left at the mercy of how the other party happens to interpret your communication. I can’t tell you how many times I have received an email that I perceived as being combative or insulting, then picked up the phone to call the sender ready for a confrontation on the issue, only to discover that it was not their intent at all. I’ve had some cringe-worthy learning experiences as a result. Luckily I can laugh about it now, and the relationship in question is stronger for it.
Without that lame little smiley face, the overused ‘LOL’, or an emoticon to the rescue, the intent can get derailed by whatever perception the reader happens to inject into your communication. If he’s having a bad day, your harmless attempt at humor can take on a slant you never intended.The point is: the meaning behind the words composed without careful consideration and dashed off in an instant with the ease of a click of a button on a cell phone are subject to much greater and unintended consequences than you may have ever envisioned.
The Essence of Skip Tracing
What’s the cure? As a skip-tracer my ability to communicate and talk to people is the very essence of what I do. Extracting information from people who may not want to talk or do not know the value of the information they have, can only be effectively exploited through ordinary verbal conversation. Knowing when someone is being deceptive by the words they use, the pace of their speech, and consequently coming up with the different types of questions to ask hinges on expansive human interaction, not the limitations of technology.
I see our social abilities slipping away in our professional lives. Contracts and business are discussed solely via email on the assumption that it’s easier, quicker, or to preserve the meat of the conversation in writing. How do we build lasting relationships without human contact? The answer to that is quite simply, we can’t.
Unplug and Talk
I have recently felt the value of conversation slipping away in my personal life: my son or daughter texting my wife and I while they are in the next room! Yes, you read that correctly: they will send a text asking what’s for dinner from their room rather than getting up and walking 30 feet to ask the question face-to-face, and I know this has probably happened to you as well.
Once a month now in our family, we completely unplug ourselves from technology. For 48 hours we log off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email and all other methods of access, allowing our devices to grow cold and dark in a desk drawer while we actually speak to each other, one on one. We—gasp!—visit friends or invite them to the house for dinner or a movie. Replacing a Facebook exchange with an actual visit?—scandalous, right?
Having placed this into practice a few months ago, it has increased my knowledge of what is happening in the lives of not only my family and friends, but also in the local community. I have picked up new slang words and their true meaning (thanks to my teenage daughter), learned who is dating whom, discovered new business start-ups in the area and enjoyed finding out if they are worth my time and money. It has also helped in my professional life.
Consider a Call
Before I send an email to a client or prospect, I consider whether a phone call would be a better solution for this subject matter. I would challenge each of you to do the same, and when we meet on our path of life, let me know how it turns out. Nothing would make me happier than to have a nice conversation with you about it.