If you’ll remember back to my post “Are You Really Listening?,” you’ll remember we talked about two self-imposed barriers to listening and effective communication.
While these barriers are critical to understand, they are only two of a seemingly endless number of distractions that can negatively impact communication and relationships.
One of those distractions, technology, is becoming increasingly more pervasive. While I fully understand and appreciate the positive impact that smartphones, email, text messaging, Facebook and Words with Friends (said with some level of sarcasm) can have on communication, I believe they can also have an adverse impact.
For example, just last week I attended a three-day training workshop in Chicago, Ill. Typically these workshops offer a tremendous opportunity to learn new skills and to network with other professionals in like industries or professions. In fact, I, personally, get as much out of the networking component as I do the content of the workshop.
During scheduled breaks at the workshop, I quickly found out that most of the other participants were less interested in networking than I was and had other priorities. During our 20-minute break, the five people surrounding me were either monitoring their Facebook feed or playing games on their smartphones or tablets. This went on the entire break. Our 60-minute lunch break came up and surely at least some of them would be interested in grabbing a table at the closest restaurant and getting to know one another. Right? Wrong! Instead, I saw four of the five of them in the same restaurant, at separate tables, with their nose buried in their phone.
This exact same sequence repeated itself multiple times each day for three days. I couldn’t help thinking that the very tools we use to stay connected were having the exact opposite effect and were instead inhibiting connection. Their ability to so easily connect (I use that term loosely) with current contacts was now a barrier to connecting with new faces. The tools that are intended to help us communicate more effectively and efficiently are the same tools preventing us from really communicating at all.
Trust me, I am not entirely innocent. I have been known to check my Facebook feed at the most inopportune times and I have wasted countless hours playing games on my iPhone. Whether for connecting with old friends or killing a couple of hours at the airport, the technology and the tools we have at our disposal are spectacular. But I believe we need to monitor our usage of these tools and never let them completely replace good ol’ fashioned “knee to knee” interactions with friends, family, colleagues, peers and, yes, complete strangers. If we fail to do so, these tools may only make worse the problems we are trying to fix.
About a month ago, I attended SXSW Interactive. I learned a lot at the sessions I attended, but one of the most valuable experiences I had was listening to other individuals’ viewpoints on various interactive technologies and how the world is using them. One my key takeaways from the event was something a former co-worker tweeted from a different session than I was in at the moment. He said, “The best technology is invisible. It just gets out of the way and lets you live your life – Amber Case.”
I have pondered this statement quite a bit since returning to Minnesota. In business, we often discuss “disruptive technologies” and how they change the way we do business. However, the reason successful technologies are created in the first place is to make some aspect of our lives easier, not make it more cumbersome. The same is true for technologies that are meant to enhance the way we communicate. The key is finding the best technologies that work for you rather than act as a barrier.
For instance, while I was at SXSW my smartphone became my lifeline to everything that was going on around me. I used the SXSW app to find relevant informational sessions, Eventbrite to keep track of events I registered for, Foursquare to find friends in the same area, and Twitter to set up meeting places and let people who couldn’t attend SXSW know what I was learning. The tools we used to connect with each other in person are the same tools we continue to use to continue the great conversations long after we left SXSW.
After a week of being hyper-connected and learning from individuals who have similar interests and professions, I’ve seen firsthand how well technology can connect individuals from all over the world. The key is finding technology that works for you instead of disrupts the activities that come naturally to you.
The same is true for the dental industry and how you can connect with your patients. It is a matter of finding the tools that work best for you AND your patients. There are a number of different tools Patterson offers, like Eaglesoft, CAESY and RevenueWell, that can enhance your communication with patients and reach them the way they communicate.