COVID-19 has radically altered work life. Instead of driving to work, flying to see clients, or talking to colleagues in the halls, we set up Zoom calls, email, and text. That increase in text-based interactions, our research suggests, is likely to have unexpectedly negative consequences.
Unless you’re an emoji all-star or write with Jane Austen’s expressiveness, emails and text messages are hotbeds for misunderstanding. Text lacks tone, masking your intentions and emotions. Joking with co-workers is no fun when they think you’re being serious.
Many have turned to videoconferencing to gain needed context. But screen interactions require focused, deliberate, and eventually exhausting amounts of attention. Tech glitches create delays, altered speech, and endless requests to unmute yourself, turning the otherwise effortless dance of conversation into hard work. This is why “Zoom fatigue” is a term we’ve all learned in 2020.
There’s a better way to stay connected that simply requires reacquainting ourselves with a tried-and-true technology—the telephone. Those smartphones we spend so much time typing into do still allow you to actually talk with another person.
Although visual cues in face-to-face conversations are helpful, our research indicates that a person’s voice—its intonation, pace, and volume—is most important for accurately understanding and connecting with others.
Sure, it’s become almost passe to call people these days when an email will suffice. But efficiency and brevity in text comes with costs to our relationships and well-being. Text conveys information but loses accurate insight and our sense of connection to others.