Why Old School 'Face To Face' Is Still The Only Way To Build Your Career

Jan 28 2014, 8:14pm CST | by

Why Old School 'Face To Face' Is Still The Only Way To Build Your Career

New technologies have made life and business easier, but they’ve also made it too easy for us to get away from the most important forms of communication, as I wrote about in a related post.

Take a look inside our heads to see how we’re hardwired for a face-to-face form of communication that we don’t practice enough anymore.

The Science of Human Contact

We’ve only been using words for a tiny fraction of our existence—and so words have a very limited impact on our ability to move people or connect with them. What has the maximum impact, in our careers and all our networks of relationships, is face-time–that intimate encounter in which we’re subconsciously mirroring and measuring one another. (And no, there’s no app for that, and you can’t get the same effect with your iPhone’s Facetime app.)

Modern humans have been around for about 200,000 years. But they didn’t just one day arise from a clamshell off the coast of Cythera. We arose with all the wiring of animal ancestors that lived at a more primal level. And we share no less than 98% of our DNA with our chimpanzee and gorilla cousins, who other than Koko still seem to have little use for words.

We developed spoken language perhaps as far back as 100,000 years ago, but maybe as recently as only 10,000 years ago. Phoenicians developed the first alphabet only about 4,200 years ago. (The first typo arose about 4,199 years ago and it’s all been downhill since then, according to some reports).

Lip Service

So reading and reacting to printed words is something that the human organism has done for just the tiniest fraction of its history. It’s a far less impactful form of communication than those looks and gestures and subtly raised eyebrows that our ancestors used as their mother tongue for hundreds of thousands of year.

So in a sense, we’re now just cavemen in power suits. That is our hard-wiring. And we still act the part in most cases.

The Hormonal Shortcomings of Your LinkedIn Profile

Oxytocin is a hormone that’s essential in building trust and loyalty among humans. It’s not generated in major ways by emails or tweets, and certainly not through LinkedIn Profiles. It famously connects mother and infant during breastfeeding as they exchange glances.

Psychologists say that close scrutiny of videos of infants reveals that our first acts as human beings, within moments of our birth, is to attempt to mimic expressions of a parent. This is part and parcel of a survival process.

And it doesn’t go away once we learn to send texts or emails. In terms of human nature hasn’t gone through enough changes in the brief history of language to be markedly different from chimpanzee nature.

For smart storytellers and entrepreneurs, this should mean everything.

  • It’s why a famed technologist like ex-Googler and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, despite Yahoo’s ongoing challengeswas right to burst the bubble of those who believed that permanent telecommuting is always just as valuable to a company’s innovation process as shared office time is. It’s why Broadcom CEO Scott McGregor recently told me that he keeps a global high-tech organization connected by not just Internet connections but “lots of plane tickets.”
  • It’s why smart journalists, when they need to cultivate a source for a story, make it a point to meet the person face to face.  (As the Pulitzer-nominated former Los Angeles Times reporter Ralph Frammolino told me in another article,  “As a reporter, there’s just no replacement for being there in person … Showing up also allows the other person to size you up, and ultimately that’s more important. If the other person is comfortable, he or she will open up, which is what you want in the first place.”
  • It’s why smart networkers summon enough courage to request personal meetings with potential mentors and employers, even if it’s just 10 minutes. (And be assured, while many such employers are extremely busy, most are flattered to have their opinions valued and to carry on about how they overcame the odds.)
  • It’s why mealtime is still one of the great places to bond, as we combine our deep human need for community with the essential human need for food. Think twice about running off to the gym by yourself.
  • And, at a more general societal level, it’s why the demise of the family dinner ritual is something to be mourned.

Someday, we’ll be able to get premium LinkedIn accounts that will allow us to squirt out oxytocin or some wickedly seductive pheromone to our 500+ contacts, ensuring that we’ll have more job options that we can count.

But right now, there’s quite literally no app for that. So we need to building face-to-face contacts as the foundation of a career and a life.


[Please share your own insights and experiences with our Forbes.com community in the comments section. And hit "Follow" at the top of the page to receive notification of more career and management advice from Rob Asghar.]

Source: Forbes Business

 
 

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