Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Great Debate: High Tech vs. High Touch

April Gillespie
by April Gillespie, Catalyst for Everlasting Change
and Founder/CEO of Starseed Consulting

In the 21st century, this age of information technology, we are surrounded by gadgets that allow us to stay connected. The question is how much connecting are we really doing?

With 2,000 friends on Facebook, 800 connections on LinkedIn and 4,000 followers on Twitter, how well are we really connecting with our fellow man?

The Great Debate has begun. How is technology affecting our relationships in our family life, businesses and with friends?

About a year ago, a mentor of mine by the name of Jeff Olson spoke on this topic – High Tech vs. High Touch - at a large self improvement conference in Chicago. Jeff Olson is world renown for his best-selling personal development book, The Slight Edge, but he is also a leadership expert, business philosopher, motivational speaker, billionaire entrepreneur and personal development coach to those like Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump and more. As a student of the personal development industry I quickly became fascinated by the struggle human beings are enduring today to balance technology and personal relationships.

Do you remember the days when the only way you could get in touch with a friend was when they were at home and you had to leave a message on their….answering machine?

Or when a guy was late picking up a girl for a date and all she could do was wait – there was no Facebook messaging, texting or instant messaging to find out his ETA.

As we work to manage all of these fabulous resources that are creating billion dollar business deals, helping no-name artists get record deals through YouTube, and bringing people together virtually to create life-long matrimony, let’s not forget that although we live in an information age, information is useless unless we are creating “high touch” relationships in the process.

Here are a few tips to help us accomplish this:
  1. Say Thank you! - Our mothers worked to instill this sense of gratitude in us at a young age but ask yourself, how many times do you say thank you when someone approves your friend request on Facebook or LinkedIn? A simple acknowledgement through a quick thank you goes a VERY long way when it comes to building connections vs. just communicating. This simple gesture in gratitude shows the other person that you aren’t taking their relationship for granted but you genuinely care to get to know them.
  2. Be Different. - If there is one thing that irks my nerves more than anything is when people request to connect with me on LinkedIn, which is supposedly a more professional environment than many other social networks, but all I get is this generic “I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” My question is WHY DO YOU WANT TO CONNECT WITH ME?? We must remember that our presence and communication on the social networks are an extension of who we are in real life! If you don’t think you’re generic then don’t use a generic introduction. You wouldn’t do that in person would you? Let’s be different, ingenious, helpful and inspiring! I do some advertising work for human resources professionals; so if I’m connecting with someone in HR I might say something like, “As a fellow HR professional in greater Cincinnati, I would be honored with your connection. Please let me know how I can be of service to you personally or professionally.” Adapt this to your industry and what you seek to accomplish of course, but remember that if social media is going to be your first impression to a key decision maker, it better be an authentic one.
  3. Request a real life interaction. - Here is where the “high touch” comes into play. Remember that just because a small head-shot and bunch of text is on a page does not mean that person is a robot. They have feelings, emotions, hopes and maybe even some dreams that you might be able to help them accomplish. This high touch interaction could be coffee before work, a quick telephone conversation or inviting them to accompany you to a networking event that you feel they could benefit from based on what you learn from the content on their page. I’ve even created connections with people on LinkedIn in other states where I travel, then when I’m in planning to be in their area I send them a quick note requesting a time for lunch, dinner or coffee and every time they are excited to meet with me, collaborate and see how we can help each other. It’s a beautiful experience to see how technology can bring us all together but let’s not forget about how to translate that into an authentic personal connection.
Regardless of where you work or what business you are in, we are all working with these weird units called HUMAN BEINGS. We no longer live in an environment where we can hide behind our desks and block out the rest of the world – the world, and all these weird units in it will find you. Human beings long for high touch interactions and we can never underestimate this fact regardless of how advanced technology becomes. Your customers still want to hear your voice, shake your hand, and even play a round of golf with you from time to time. Leverage technology – high tech – to start initial communication but be sure to truly connect with others live via phone and in person – high touch – to fully maximize the power of technology.

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