When did we become so cold? In this increasingly digitally infested world, business, as society, is struggling to put the humanity back into the way we communicate. The very thing that was supposed to engage us with the rest of mankind seems to have only isolated us further. Why meet in person when you can Skype? Why Skype when you can call? Why call when you can email?
Science proves that face-to-face communication is not only more productive and effective in resolving issues in shorter timeframes, it also creates trust, breaks down silos, enhances engagement... and JEEZ doesn't it just feel better?
This subject has been covered by much more learned souls than myself, but I wanted to share an experience that happened a long time ago but has placed a deep-rooted affect on me ever since.
In my previous role I worked with a global organisation. This meant I spent a decent chunk of time out in Mexico. Now most people will tell you how warm and generous of spirit the Mexican people are. Usually the graveyard of employee personality around the world, even the people working in the airport shared their genuine warmth and laughter with me as they checked my passport and did their security checks. I left the country with a smile on my face and a determination to return. As a side note Homeland security could learn a thing or two from these guys about how to welcome people and say farewell to them so that they actually want to return… but I digress.
On my return I emailed one of the delegates of the workshop to arrange a coaching session. He replied in Spanish. Now my partner is Spanish so yo hablo un poco Espagnol (I speak a little) but at the end of the email was a phrase I didn't recognise.
I duly typed it into Google Translate. “A hug”.
I giggled, then spoke to my partner
"The dude wants to give me a hug!!!!"
"Of course tontito. Why not?"
"What? Like a business hug????!!!"
"Yes. It's normal. Just because it's business, doesn't mean you have to be cold. You British are so cold."
Damn. She had me. Honestly, I'm a little warmer than most. I can thank the Kreole blood I inherited from my Seychellois grandfather, but a quick review of my emails showed the standard 'kindest/warmest regards', 'best wishes' and 'yours sincerely', none of which sound very sincere. At the best there were some 'take cares' and 'all the bests'.
At the end of the scheduled coaching call, as I offered my continuing support, the delegate said to me in English:
"Thank you so much for your time and I send you a big hug."
The translator began to laugh, followed by the delegate, followed by me.
"What? Don't you say that in English?"
The translator explained that the word didn't quite have the same meaning in English. Undeterred the delegate continued.
"But I want to thank you so much. I want to shake you with a big hug."
Still smiling I reciprocated.
"Muchos gracias mi amigo. Un Abrazo."
What's wrong with genuine human warmth, interaction and appreciation? The business case? Well I'd certainly do business with a anyone who showed that kind of authenticity and ability to connect. That small magical interaction revealed our human side to each other. An instant rapport and trust builder. But forget the business case, it makes me smile every time my mind gratefully recalls the magical moment.
So come on, let's hug it out.