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imagesOur smartphones, tablets, and other devices are technological marvels, but unfortunately, they’ve diverted our attention away from what people can accomplish in conversations. Geoffrey Tumlin shares the unrealistic expectations we have for how our digital devices boost communication and offers advice to help us improve our communication with each other.

* Unrealistic expectation #3: Better communication technologies mean better communication.

Better communication technology doesn’t lead to better communication, especially when the new tools encourage speed and convenience over thoughtfulness and deliberation, and when they fragment our communication, scatter our attention, and constantly distract us from the issues at hand.

“My smartphone distracts me ten times more often than my ‘dumb’ phone ever did, and I got a lot more work done when the mail came only once a day,” says Tumlin. “Smarter phones don’t guarantee smarter communicators. Better communication happens only when our communication skills improve.”

* Unrealistic expectation #4: What I WANT to SAY is the most important part of communication.

Meaningful and effective communication is possible only when we consistently place our conversational goals ahead of our conversational impulses.

“The hardest thing in the world is to not say the witty comeback on the tip of our tongues and to restrain ourselves from saying something obviously counterproductive – but immediately gratifying – when a conversation frustrates us,” states Tumlin. “What you want to say is never more important than what you want to accomplish. That’s a lesson that smart communicators never forget.”

* Unrealistic expectation #5: Communicating to an audience doesn’t require any special consideration.

Because all we have to do is click to send an email or text to all of our contacts or to post a social media message for the world to see, we’ve concluded, incorrectly, that adding people to a message doesn’t require any additional thought or consideration.

“More people mean more perspectives to consider,” says Tumlin. “When we fail to account for these additional viewpoints, we run the risk of talking, texting, or typing right past each other, or worse, upsetting someone with a thoughtless message or a hasty reply.

“It’s not practical to think through every possible perspective before posting to Facebook or sending a group email,” he adds. “But we should take the extra step to consider viewpoints and ask questions like, ‘What’s Uncle Billy going to think about this post?’ or, ‘I wonder how this email is going to across to the accounting department?’ Adding people complicates communication, and when we forget that lesson, conversational trouble is never far behind.”


“The digital communication revolution has encouraged us to expect way too much from our digital devices and far too little from each other,” Tumlin stresses. “If we put people back at the center of our conversations, this really could be the golden age of communication.”

Geoffrey Tumlin is the author of “Stop Talking, Start Communicating: Counterintuitive Secrets to Success in Business and in Life.” Learn more about Geoffrey at http://www.tumlin.com or email him at geoff@tumlin.com.

The complete version of this article appears in the July 2014 “Employee Assistance Report.” For more information or a free trial, check out the “Employee Assistance Professionals” link at http://www.impact-publications.com