The case for personal interaction
I’ve spent the last several weeks recuperating from an injury. Aside from the ministrations of health care providers and family members, much of this time has been spent alone, but thankfully not marooned.
The contact I’ve had with the outside world has been virtual: social media, email, text, Zoom, etc. I am grateful for these networks and the connections they facilitate. I’ve actually been able to get some critical work tasks done even while convalescing. After two years of forced remote interaction, folks are much more relaxed and receptive to conducting business via electrons.
But this gift from the technology gods also offers potential hazards, especially for those who prefer the online realm. There are many studies comparing and contrasting virtual vs physical interactions. Almost all point out the need for in-person connection. This one from Stanford caught my eye, given its medical context.
As we come out of pandemic mode, personal interaction will, I believe, be an even more important and necessary skill for leaders and aspiring leaders to master.
Interpersonal skill has always been a vector for success. Dale Carnegie was the pioneer in the “business” self-help industry. His “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is a seminal work, 85 years after its publication.
One of Carnegie’s core concepts is that it is possible to change other people’s attitudes by changing your own behavior towards them. His book lays out how to build stronger, lasting relationships. (Hint: it takes real face time.)
In his 2013 book “To Sell is Human,” Dan Pink offered a new take on the subject. He posited that the ability to move others to take action is a critical success factor in our increasingly knowledge- and service-based economy. And that it can be mastered by the many.
I have found this true both in theory and from experience. You don’t have to be the stereotypical, extroverted glad-hander to make it work. I am not a people person by nature. I am an INFJ, if you follow Myers-Briggs personality types. It means that I am an introvert at my core.
This may come as a shock to some given my career. But introvert doesn’t have to mean wallflower, or people hater:
Introverts tend to feel drained after socializing and regain their energy by spending time alone. This is largely because introverts’ brains respond to dopamine differently than extroverts’ brains. In other words, if you’re an introvert, you were likely born that way.
The skills needed to persuade effectively, Pink argues, are largely independent of personality types, and the most successful mix and match approaches as the situation dictates.
As Dale Carnegie noted: “The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”