When I was about 9 years old my favourite thing to do was to phone my best friend after school. We would talk almost every day, minimum one hour, often even 2, till one of our moms disrupted the conversation, asking us to free up the line and threatening financial participation in the monthly phone bill. We had seen each other at school and lived only 3 miles apart at that point, but still we needed our calls. I don’t remember much of what was discussed, but I do recall us fantasizing about video telephony: How awesome would it be if we could actually SEE each other in the telephone!?!?
Well, many things have changed in the past 25 years and by now our dream became reality. Video telephony? Not a problem whatsoever.
Video calls, conferences, webinars, online trainings,… it’s all available to us. Of course!
But still, accepting this new technology doesn’t come naturally to all of us. Many people seem to almost have an intrinsic feeling of aversion towards today’s communication tools. I’ve seen this at work with clients, where face-to-face meetings are enforced, even if it meant to travel 4 days out of a 5-day week. I’m seeing it even more now, during a time where we don’t have any other options available to us. Still, time and time again, I’m hearing: “Let’s postpone this till after Corona” or “We will see each other soon [=no clue when] again, we can discuss about it then”. It makes me curious – where is this hesitation coming from? Is speaking via video really so much less valuable than a face-to-face conversation?
I’m not going to list the variety of reasons people claim video meetings cannot work, or do not work for them. However, while I am pro-technology, I do realize that it does come with some complexity:
It may be true or just a perception, but showing oneself on video, just like on a photo, sets expectations. We feel like having to prepare for it. Combing hair, checking make-up, wearing a pretty shirt (even if below the waist it’s just sweat pants)… it feels like we cannot just be our natural ‘real-life’ selves. We are in our private environment, where behind us the laundry from two weeks ago might be stacking up… No wonder we feel a bit exposed under the scrutiny of other video meeting participants, who could – in theory – put our face on full screen and judge. That is scary!
At the same time, our view of the video communication is blurry, like looking through a dirty window. Speaking through video doesn’t allow us to fully grasp all the dimensions. The quality of the audio may be patchy. Without doubt, it is much more difficult to see, process and react to facial expressions of our counterparts. We are not able to smell, feel and sense them at all. In many situations the latter doesn’t matter so much, but clearly important aspects of human interaction are missing.
Feeling exposed on the one side and not having the full picture on the other is definitely not an ideal foundation for effective communication. It’s like sitting blindfolded in a shop window. Not comfortable for sure! But what we might forget is that it’s the same for all of us. We are all sitting there, we all can’t see properly, we all expose ourselves. Your conversation partners probably feel exactly the same as you! So, what’s the harm?
At the end of the day it all comes down to this (like anything in this world, if you ask my economist friends): Is the benefit worth the cost? Do you want to be afraid of people judging or get on with your work? Do you want to wait till Corona is over or reach your goals still this year??
Let’s try to make the best out of what we have available to us. How awesome is it, that we have all of this amazing technology, which was just a fantasy not so long ago!?
I’m going to video-call my best friend now, so take care and maybe, see you soon…