Author’s note:  The author of this blog apologizes for the lengthy delay between posts – vacation can do that!  Watch for more timely posts; usually on at least a weekly basis.

situational-interview-questionsBy Michael Houlihan & Bonnie Harvey

Technology has made many aspects of modern living more convenient and “connected,” but the pendulum has swung too far. Now, people are reluctant to do something as simple as pick up the phone, and face-to-face meetings — well, they’re almost unheard of.

This “technology takeover” is not without consequence. Misunderstandings abound. Relationships stagnate. Social media and technology do have their place, but they are not, and never will be, a substitute for in-person interaction. People don’t just buy your product or service; they buy you.

I worry that young people’s dependence on virtual communication has stunted the social skills they’ll need to attract customers. Through no fault of their own, they have inherited a world that provides a comfortable firewall insulating them from personal rejection — one in which they simply don’t have to communicate in real time. “Could you learn to walk if you were handed a crutch at birth?”

Of course, face-to-face meetings can be expensive. It’s not economically feasible to hop on a plane every time a meeting is needed. In these cases, Skype is the next best thing to being there. However, face to face is still the best whenever possible, and we’d like to share seven reasons why the personal touch will always be more effective than pixels on a screen. Two of them will appear below – the remainder will appear in part II of this two-part article.

* The time investment shows you really care. Human beings want to be valued and appreciated. Spending time with someone else, especially face to face, is one of the best ways to convey these feelings. An investment of time says, “While there are many other things I could be doing, I’m choosing to spend my time with you. That’s how important I think you are!”

Plus, face to face can also provide valuable non-verbal clues to someone’s values and concerns. On any business trip there will probably be instances that cause stress and anxiety, which presents an opportunity for both of you to see how the other handles a variety of situations and to learn to work together more effectively.

* You’re better able to give personalized attention. It’s hard to multi-task when someone is physically in front of you, demanding your attention. Unless you have no problem with blatant rudeness, you’re focusing on the other person, responding not only to what they say, but also to their mood, movements, and many other non-verbal signals. In my experience, when you use someone’s name along with eye contact and an attentive demeanor, they’re more likely to be agreeable and to give you the benefit of the doubt. People want to do business with people they know, and you can get to know them much better “off-screen.”

NEXT TIME: The authors reveal more benefits to the personal way of doing business.

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey are authors of “The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built a Bestselling Wine” (Evolve Publishing,    Author’s note: This article appeared in the August 2013 issue of “Employee Assistance Report.” For more information on this monthly newsletter, check out the employee assistance professionals tab at