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The Lazy Social Networker: Should You Go Offline?

The Lazy Social Networker: Should You Go Offline?

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    I know networking is crucial for everything from finding a new job to making a sale. And sites like Facebook and LinkedIn can make all that networking go a lot faster. But I’m not sold on the idea that they always make it better. For one thing, social networking online is a ton of work. Between responding to notifications, wishing everyone a happy birthday and clicking ignore on ridiculous Facebook application requests, it can feel like I’ve spent all day on social networking and no time of anything that will actually make it worthwhile to have a network.

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    It’s easy to be lazy about social networking: just ‘forget’ to log in to LinkedIn for a week or two. But if you want the value of the network without all the hassle, maybe there are some better options. In particular, I’m talking about limiting your online networking and focusing on what you can do offline.

    Start Slow

    I’ve been making a point of connecting with people offline lately. I’ve spent some great lunch hours meeting up with folks that I may see something about online every day but that I almost never see in person. And, as it happens, just sitting down with a sandwich and a contact has been far more valuable than having those same individuals friended on the social networking site of the work. We talked through some of the respective problems we’ve been having with careers and businesses, and even found some worthwhile solutions.

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    If you’ve moved more towards doing your networking online, it may seem counter-intuitive to try to meet with someone in person. After all, you can shoot off an email to your contact whenever you want. Just the same, though, even one face-to-face meeting can make a huge difference in what topics you think to talk (or write) about. You may have an idea of the current opportunities and issues a person is facing if he updates Twitter or his Facebook status religiously, but it won’t sink in until you actually discuss it. The reverse is true.

    Starting to add the occasional real person into your schedule can be difficult. I try to schedule all of my meetings into one day a week in order to improve my productivity on the other four days. I just started adding one meeting — usually at lunch time — where I didn’t have to meet with someone on an existing project. Instead, I pick someone out of my address book that I want to just have a conversation with. It’s as simple as sending an email offering to meet for lunch — almost always, my contact is up for it.

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    Adding in a meeting a week may be a little much for your schedule, though. Maybe starting with something low level, like a short telephone call, is more your style. I think, though, if you start connecting with people offline, you’ll be inclined to do so even more. If that isn’t true — if you don’t find that face-to-face meeting help you — you can always go back to spending all your time on social networking sites. Just give it a try once or twice before discounting it.

    Why Bother?

    Between all the social networking sites I’ve ‘had’ to join, the number of contacts I’ve got numbers in the thousands. There’s no way for me to really have a meaningful relationship with each and everyone of them, even online — and there’s definitely no way for me to meet each of them in person. It’s pretty tempting to give up on the whole idea of even trying.

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    But it’s worth the bother. There are definitely people in my contact lists that I’m willing to make meeting in person a priority. There are even a few that I would be willing to drop what I’m doing just for the chance at a cup of coffee with them. While I don’t particularly like the idea that I’m picking and choosing which of my contacts are really valuable to me, that’s just the approach that is necessary to even start meeting a few in person.

    Those face-to-face meetings are worth it, though. When you’re used to working at home and seeing no one, or working in an office and seeing the same handful of people day in and day out, it’s incredibly difficult to get perspective on both your opportunities and your problems. Just bringing in a new viewpoint can shake everything up. And it’s never a bad thing to have an excuse to get away from your desk and have lunch with someone you can hold a conversation with.

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    A Time And A Place

    There’s certainly a time and a place for both online and offline networking. There are plenty of people I never would have met without the ability to connect online — living on different continents no longer prevents making a good connection. But social networking will never replace what you can do in person.

    Before you add that new friend on your favorite social network, it’s worth exploring whether you can connect with an existing friend offline. Offer to go out to lunch, or even grab a cup of coffee. Meet up at some event. Just walk away from the computer for a little while and see if you can strengthen your network before you try to play the ‘I have more connections than anyone else’ game.

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    Published on May 18, 2021

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

    The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

    Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

    Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

    Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

    There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

    Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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    Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

    We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

    Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

    A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

    The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

    Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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    Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

    Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

    Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

    While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

    Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

    These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

    Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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    Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

    Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

    Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

    Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

    Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

    Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

    As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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    This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

    Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

    Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

    These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

    Actions Speak Louder Than Words

    Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

    Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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    Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

    More Tips Improving Listening Skills

    Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

    Reference

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