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The Importance of Face Time


We seem to have forgotten the value of face time – time spent in face-to-face contact with someone – as we become more reliant on instant electronic communications in a business world which seems to move faster and faster every day.

Instant messaging, e-mail, cell phones, video conferencing and telecommuting have made it so convenient to do business 24 hours a day from almost anywhere that the act of physically meeting with someone has come to be regarded as slightly old-fashioned in some circles. Of course, such personal contact is the primary stock-in-trade for professionals like politicians and salesmen, but all too often the rest of us are finding it inconvenient. And thats a problem.

People are social animals. Thousands of years of forming opinions by looking each other in the eye, observing facial expressions and making physical contact cannot be quickly replaced by electronic signals.

The face is the index of the mind, according to an old Latin saying. We have all witnessed instances of facial expressions or body language which show a response which is different – sometimes directly opposite – than the words which are spoken. People dont always say what they mean, and other forms of communication cant pick that up.

Getting to know someone with whom you do business speeds up everything. They are less likely to waste time complaining about some imagined slight and more likely to try to work out small differences. There is more give-and-take, and it is easier to understand the subtleties of the other persons point of view. Face-to-face contact builds respect on both sides.

Its not easy to for someone to make statements which are not entirely true if youre looking him straight in the eye. And a promise made by a person directly in front of you holds more weight than a long-distance one.

Face-to-face meetings, which allow both spoken and unspoken instant feedback, can convert an angry dialogue into a helpful discussion. It is harder for the other party to be unreasonable; he or she may turn out to be more cooperative than you expected. Good ideas can occur synergistically when people are meeting and discussing a subject of common interest.

It helps to see the person with whom you are negotiating in his native habitat. You learn more about his values, and the more you learn, the more successful your negotiations will be. Such informal discussions usually reveal new paths for negotiation and opportunities to solve problems which electronic means of communication cant match.

Finally, a few of us, without realizing it, may have become uneasy with physical meetings because we are now more used to sitting in our own familiar environment and sending one-way messages which dont have to reveal much about ourselves. Insulating ourselves and protecting our backsides through electronic communications may actually begin to consume so much energy that theres not enough left to make a real contribution to the company.

So, get off your duff, go into the office, walk down the hall, make a business trip, attend a convention – go meet face to face with someone who plays an important part in your business life. The time and effort is worth it.

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