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The Hyperconnectivity Paradox: Why Reaching People is Harder Than Ever

The Hyperconnectivity Paradox: Why Reaching People is Harder Than Ever

When I text my brother, I can usually expect a response in 2-3 days. I’ve never asked him why he’s so bad at responding. I figure it’s none of my business. When I receive a text or miss a call from my friend who lives in San Francisco—I live in Kentucky—I know that I only have about a minute to respond. If I take any longer, he will have already moved on with his life and, for the sake of wasted time, I should probably abandon any attempt to continue the conversation.

According to Facebook, they averaged 1.18 billion active daily users in September 2016. Twitter’s website (at the time of writing this article—Nov. 2016) says they have 313 million active users. In 2014, 8.5 Billion texts were sent each day in the U.S. alone! By 2018, it’s expected that people will receive 97 business related emails per day.

Then there’s old fashioned phone calls, diminishing but still relevant—the NSA said that in 2013 there were about 3 billion phone calls being made in the U.S. each day.

We are living through a digital revolution—a time of ever increasing hyperconnectivity—but somehow it doesn’t always feel that way.

Maybe it’s because only 22% of emails are ever opened—or the fact that the number of phone calls that go unanswered is increasing. When those calls go unanswered, 72% of callers don’t leave voicemails, which is probably smart because 80% of people say they don’t listen to them.

Contacting People We Know

Our social habits, when it comes to communication, are also in a revolution.

While I expect one friend to respond to all of my social media messages, texts, or phone calls, I don’t have the same expectations for everyone. That may because there is no universally accepted primary form of communication anymore. My grandma doesn’t text, my brother doesn’t write letters, my wife isn’t on Twitter, and one of my friends isn’t on Facebook. I remember—when my wife and I were planning our wedding—trying to collect people’s addresses to send out invitations. Besides letter writing, I had to use each of the aforementioned forms of communication to complete our list—plus phone calls—and, for some people, it took multiple messages before they responded.

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I don’t know how often my uncle checks his social media accounts, I don’t know my old coworker’s email address, and I don’t know the new cell phone numbers for all of my old high school friends. This meant that the best process was trial and error. If nobody responded on Facebook, or an old email address bounced, then I had to track down friends and family through other people.

Who has a home phone anymore? My family hasn’t had one for over 8 years. Furthermore,I have friends that I haven’t called in years but we text on a regular basis. Communication has changed.

Contacting Businesses

When I call my bank, I know the exact moment that I can interrupt the robo-operator by pressing “0”. While that gets me a little closer to my goal of talking to a live person, I still have to make a couple more numerical selections before I finally get placed on hold—because they are always “experiencing higher than normal call volume”—and wait for an actual person to help me.

I called the manufacturer of my microwave because it needed repair—it was almost 20 minutes before I got to talk to someone.

The pre-recorded message suggested several times that I go to the website to make a service appointment but I didn’t have the warranty information needed to make an appointment via the website. I needed to talk to a person—a small request, I thought, since I was reaching out to a multi-billion dollar company.  But, this is the way things are now. We live in the world of online chat support, FAQ pages, and automated emails.

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There are even websites like GetHuman.com that try to address this issue. Get Human’s tagline is “Get painless customer service.” On their site, you can enter the name of a company with whom you have an issue and Get Human will give you the best phone numbers and web pages to get your problem solved—or you can pay them to get it solved for you since dealing with company’s customer service processes is often difficult and time-consuming.

Many companies, especially in the tech industry, are abandoning phone numbers altogether. Try entering Facebook or Twitter into Get Human’s system and, while it will provide you with a number, the number is only a recording that directs you back to a website. This is of course, understandable for a company like Facebook with over a billion customers.

Contacting Prominent People

How many emails do you think Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, gets each day? I’ve emailed him. I didn’t expect a response and I didn’t get one. But I was able to find his email address—or at least one of his email addresses—and while I know there’s a 99 percent chance that it’s not actually Sir Richard Branson managing the account but an administrative assistant, since it exists, I figured it must serve some purpose. So why not try.

But if I found the address by engaging only a moderate amount of search-engine sleuthing skills, then so can millions of other people, and that seems to be the problem with hyperconnectivity—when we are all connected, the people whose attention is most in demand are overwhelmed with requests. It’s like a thousand swarms of bees all vying for the nectar of a single flower.

For the uber-famous, it’s an impossible endeavor to try to respond to every request for attention. There simply isn’t enough nectar for all the bees.

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I remember writing a letter to Michael Jordan as a child. Months later, I actually got a signed letter back. I have no idea if it was actually signed by MJ, but I got a response. There may be celebrities left with impressively responsive fan clubs but I’d venture to guess that a vast majority of fans aren’t writing letters these days.* They’re tagging celebrities in tweets and taking a chance with an unsolicited email.**

*It’s important to point out there is likely a big difference between response rates with fans and response rates to business inquiries directed at celebrities. **While probably impossible for Richard Branson, I can think of a couple celebrities that claim to personally respond to every email.

Contacting prominent people becomes then one of two things—the cliched ideas of rising above the noise or “it’s who you know”.

Look at Sir Richard Branson again—right now he has 8.7 million Twitter followers. That’s a lot of noise to overcome, but at least one man did it. He got creative. While most people were sending emails and tweets followed by prayer or strategic follow up messages, Joe Tannorella built a website. DearSirRichard.com was a personal message to Branson, disguised as a website. On the site Joe asked Branson if he would be willing to record a short clip to be played during his best man speech at his brother’s wedding—Branson was his brother’s hero. In the end, with the help of a few Twitter advertisements, it worked—Branson sent a personal message to Joe and his brother and Virgin Mobile reached out too, asking Joe to email them directly.

It seems one cliche begets the other—you need other people to help you rise above the noise. That’s why Joe put his personal contact information on the website and asked anybody with a connection to Branson to please forward his info and his request.

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Counting People

Compare the following two web pages:

http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/

One shows a live counter tracking the number of people in the world. The other shows a live counter tracking the number of people that have access to the internet. You’ll see that the latter is rising much faster. One day those numbers could meet and there are lots of people working to make that happen.  Google company X has Project Loon, Facebook has Internet.org—both projects aiming to bring Internet access to the entire world. Independent projects like Connect the World are trying to bring people and companies together with the same objective.

We can only speculate on what technological advances await us down the road and with the sizable growth potential of Internet access, it would seem we are still in an early phase of person-to-person hyperconnectivity. This means that, as more people come online, the noise will only get louder. There are already 3.5 billion people with internet access worldwide and every day another aspect of our daily lives becomes digitally connected—simplified in an app. or swallowed by a new industry—each change creating new avenues for communication.

As one person said—their name appropriately lost in the noise–, “It has never been so easy and so hard to reach someone.” This is the paradox of hyperconnectivity.

Featured photo credit: Pavan Trikutum via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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