Q: “I communicate online more than I do in person – are those skills the same? I’m worried I’m not as good in person!”
An Excellent and Wicked Topical Question – is online/digital interpersonal communication the same as in person? Here is my slippery - yet - encouraging answer: at its core, it most certainly can be. Even if you aren’t face to face / I 2 I (A Goofy Movie reference for all my millennials out there), you can still talk, laugh, and connect with people in a way that has meaning and depth. It’s no less valid, simply different. Two slices from the same pizza, if you will.
During Covid, for so many of us, digitally was the only way we could connect with other folks. If you were like me and lived alone and apart from family, it was our only option and we did our best to find meaning within those restrictions. But Covid aside, we are in an increasingly digital age which leads to people connecting online more than ever. Through Zoom, video games, social media, online support groups, or even just texting (etc) - If you are engaging w. someone - you are communicating with them! That Being Said. Remember when I mentioned that it’s different? Let’s go There now. There is still a divide between engaging with someone digitally vs. in-person. In a way, they’re different skillsets. Some of those differences include:
Body Language: eye contact, facial expression, gestures, posture…
Timing: pacing of dialog, back & forth, flow, pauses…
Expression: Tone, volume, humor, wit, subtext….
If the majority of your interpersonal communication takes place digitally, chances are that the above components might not be utilized as frequently, or maybe even not come as easily to you. Think about texting; if you’re chatting with someone that way, there is time between messages. You can really take all the time you need to craft the message, think of the joke, the thoughtful response, find the meme, etc. That time isn’t as available when you’re in person; you often need to be quicker and more present as you engage. On that same vibe, who among us hasn’t attempted a joke over email that was a catastrophic flop because your tone wasn’t clear? (Story of my life, ages 22 – yesterday). It can be harder to be accurately understood if your expression or intention isn’t clear – more is left to interpretation. The other person is going to be reading it in Their Own Voice, which might not be the same at your own. With less ques and context, it can be easier to misfire or worse, hurt feelings.
Communication in person provides more space for nuance – this can make connecting feel harder, but it can also open up for more authentic expression and deeper understanding. Not to mention better jokes and rapid-fire wordplay, if that’s your style.
I’m not here to say one is better than the other – that’s above my pay grade.
Both are skills that must be built and practiced, both have a valuable place in our modern world.
If communicating digitally comes easier to you but you struggle to find that ease in-person, don’t be hard on yourself; it is an effective way to connect with people and find success. Hell – you could go on to win The Circle! Ultimately, I am an advocate for both – life is all about balance, which in this case means finding your authentic voice in all forms. Whether it’s digital or in person, effective communication will make your life easier, that is a guarantee from me to you. Do you have a communication challenge or question? Submit to firstname.lastname@example.org.