Whenever a colleague suggests we have a call, the first thing I say is “Great, but let’s do it over Skype.” Yes, I know Skype had some problems early on. But it's been working well for a long time now.
What I really cherish is being able to see the other person. I can’t imagine choosing not to see the person I’m talking with! So whether it’s Skype, FaceTime, WebEx, WeChat, or Google Hangout, I’m good.
I know, “a bad hair day,” or you're sweaty because you just got back from a run, but despite that inconvenient reality, seeing the person makes such a huge difference. If I can see my colleague’s face I can tell if he or she understands what I’m saying. Or if I’ve totally lost them, I can make adjustments. If I see that they disagree, I can invite them to help me understand their point of view. I can see the other person smile at my jokes and quips and I can smile my appreciation at their’s. I can see what they are experiencing. Mostly, when I can see the other, I have a greater sense of them as a person.
There has been a good deal of research that shows that we are all harsher when writing emails than we are in person. I know I am. The explanation for that strange phenomenon is that with emails we don’t have to experience the other person’s being hurt or angry. I’ve not seen similar research about audio versus video, but my experience is much the same. I am more likely to be unsympathetic when I don’t see the face of the person I'm talking to. I learn so much, (often it feels like too much) about my own behavior when I see the reaction of others!
I had an experience just a few weeks ago - one you’ve probably had a hundred times yourself. I had been on several conference (phone) calls with four others planning a CoP related to Quality in Universal Health Coverage for the World Health Organization. Nice people all, but when I met with them face-to-face for two days a few weeks ago, we began to understand each other, to create new possibilities together, to get excited about what could happen. I took more chances when I could see them; tested out more ideas, and I think others did as well. The whole time I kept wondering how much farther along we might have been if we had conducted all our initial calls by Skype, laughed with each other, challenged each other a bit more.
Why do we limit ourselves to just voice when we could have this amazing capability to interact with others?
Don’t phone me, Skype me!