Can IT tools completely replace face-to-face communication?
When we work together at the office, there is a lot exchange of verbal and nonverbal communication. IT can replace quite a lot of verbal communication aspects, but the challenge is coming up with a solution for nonverbal communication, such as facial expression, awareness of presence, and exchange of greetings. Telework requires us to cover this part of communication using IT.
We say, "work with a high level of motivation," but where does motivation come from? Does motivation come from a sense of justice or eagerness of wanting more? Yes, those are the seeds of motivation. What counts in business is continuous motivation. Then how is motivation fueled? I believe that it comes from communication. Communication is the fuel for motivation; being acknowledged, receiving praise, being noticed, being seen, etc. make us keep going. Communication has two sides; positive and negative. Not only positive feedback is required, but also negative too. To continue working with high motivation, continuation of communication is required.
Communication can be divided into the following 4 types:
- Positive and Verbal
- Positive and Nonverbal
- Negative and Verbal
- Negative and Nonverbal
Let's assign specific traits:
- Positive and Verbal: Appreciative, agreeable, and encouraging
- Positive and Nonverbal: Smiling and cheerful
- Negative and Verbal: Inappreciative, disagreeable, and disappointed
- Negative and Nonverbal: Grumpy and gloomy
When we are at the office, without realizing, we exchange such a variety of communication styles. IT tools are capable of substituting face-to-face communication in "1. Positive and Verbal: Appreciative, agreeable, and encouraging" quite well. On the other hand, both in "2. Positive and Nonverbal: Smiling and cheerful" and "4. Negative and Nonverbal: Grumpy and gloomy," IT tools would be rather incapable of substituting face-to-face, nonverbal communication. The invention of 'emoji' and 'stamps' has been a great help for nonverbal communication through IT tools.
The "3. Negative and Nonverbal: Inappreciative, disagreeable, and disappointed" is a tough type, even in a face-to-face communication environment. It gets tougher if you were to do it over written sentences; we keep seeing a lot of issues and misunderstandings on SNS and that is an indication of its difficulty. Face-to-face communication eases the difficulty of this type significantly. I am not so optimistic to think that IT tools can be substitutions for face-to-face communication in this case. When you are having trouble with your customer and you want to mend the situation, visiting them and having face-to-face communication is highly preferable. Email is much less powerful than oral communication, and oral is far less powerful than face-to-face.