Is Technology Improving or Decreasing Communication Skills?

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This week we feature a guest post from friend of Bespoken, Zara Sienna.

There’s no question that technology has opened up more opportunities for people to communicate with one another — we have, after all, come a long way from snail mail and telegrams. Thanks to social media, messaging apps, and video calls, one can now interact with others around the world instantaneously.

Anna Pickard of Slack explains that technology has also paved the way for clearer communication in the workplace, since people are now used to talking through short, concise messages. Being clear and succinct is a key aspect in effective communication skills. Online communication tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Glip, have also allowed people to be comfortable with speaking to large groups of people through channels or group chat rooms.

However, there seems to be an imbalance in practice between digitally mediated conversations and face-to-face communication. Researchers from LivePerson found that the younger generation prefers digital channels, with 7 out of 10 Millennials and Generation Z participants preferring to communicate that way. Millennials are currently the largest demographic in the US, making this information crucial for leaders and managers everywhere. Due to them preferring digital channels to communicate, it can be argued that these young professionals may be hurting their chances to develop their communication skills in the workplace.

This is because compared to texting, calling, and online messaging, face-to-face communication provides more opportunities for people to practice their communication skills. For instance, Tough Nickel discussed the benefits of personal interactions, citing how people can get visual feedback as well as convey nonverbal communication in the form of body language and facial expressions. Thrive Global’s article on face-to-face communication states that 80% of all communication is nonverbal. Physical gestures are very important because they can determine how someone is feeling. Nonverbal communication skills can be useful in business, as professionals can pick up on visual cues from customers and respond accordingly.

Communication skills fall under the essential soft skills required in the workplace. Here at Bespoken we emphasized how communication skills are key to becoming a great leader. Ideally, managers should know how to speak effectively both through technology and in person. And since digital communication and in-person communication develop different skills, it's important that modern comms training marry both together seamlessly. Maryville University’s communication program serves as an example of combining both practices, because learners are given the chance to close their communication skills gap through online means. Students have the option to choose an online classroom setting, where they can interact with instructors through video conferences. Through this method, they can learn to develop both nonverbal and verbal cues.

In conclusion, the kind of impact technology has on communication skills depends entirely on the individual. While one can learn how to convey clear messages through digital channels, one should not underestimate the value of face-to-face interactions as well.

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By: Zara Sienna