In either a personal or business context, those who transcend the mindset that the people we are connecting with are “followers” or “consumers” or “businesses” create deeper bonds and more meaningful relationships. They don’t see B-to-B or B-to-C or followers. They see each individual as a real person.
More like H-to-H: Human to human.
Viewing each other as a human being is a dynamic that has deteriorated, if not selectively disappeared in some instances, in both our personal and professional/business lives.
The continued proliferation of technology – for all its wonderous benefits and functionality to connect people more efficiently and immediately – has also led to communication, while voluminous, that is less meaningful and personal. And that can’t be blamed on technology.
People use the technology. How people have sometimes decided to use it in part has led to the de-personalization of how people communicate with each other and ultimately de-humanizes…well, human beings.
One of many reasons business have increasingly deployed technology is to save labor costs and to avoid training people to provide functions like customer service. We’ve all been there. We have a problem with a product or service and call the customer-service number. We get the privilege of navigating a voice prompt that presents about 10 useless options for the problem we are having, which are really intended to get you to go online to do something that is not remotely relevant to your problem like “check your balance…get our hours...see if there’s an Internet outage in your area.”
Two minutes later when you finally get to the option that says “if none of these are the reason you are calling, please tell us your reason,” and in three words you concisely tell the robot an easily discernable problem. The reply is “I’m sorry, I don’t understand that.” The robot finally gives you “permission” to talk to a real human being, and if you’re lucky, you get someone who solves your problem.
An enigma in business that has nothing to do with technology is that more job applicants have complained about being ghosted by potential employers even after actually interviewing with not only HR, but with the actual hiring manager. It would seem that someone who works at a company would want to let a candidate know that they are not moving forward, if not because of common courtesy to thank the candidate for taking the time to apply and interview, then to leave the candidate with a good impression of the company and protect its brand and reputation. Sending a two-sentence e-mail seems to be too much to ask in too many cases.
In our personal lives, technology can enable richer, more frequent connections between family, friends and groups of people with common interests that could forge new friendships. And it does in so many ways from sharing photos of grandchildren, to sending birthday greetings to friends or “just thinking about you” texts and so much more. Many people rue social media, but when used with positive intent and when only engaging others with similar intent, it enables meaningful, personal connections with people we care about.
But technology can also be used, unintentionally or not, to de-humanize another person. The worst of which is “ghosting,” which started in the early 2000s in the dating world to avoid having a difficult conversation with someone in-person or on the phone to let them know that one is no longer interested, without any acknowledgement of how it would make the person who is ghosted feel.
It seems there are more frequent instances of selective lack of responsiveness far beyond the dating context in recent years. More people seem to feel comfortable hiding behind technology to do something they would never do if they were asked for a response in-person – just turning their back and walking away.
“Not calling someone back ever” is probably an unseemly human habit that dates back to the invention of the telephone. But because there are so many more opportunities to communicate these days, and so many channels to communicate in, there are exponentially more opportunities to not respond or ignore someone. Soon, being rude and not treating someone as a human being may become the norm. And that would be sad.
Most people who do don’t respond or ghost are likely just trying to avoid a difficult conversation or conflict. They likely don’t intend anything malicious. But people can build strength through transparency and forthrightness. Not only within themselves, but strength in the person they are trying to avoid. They can leave them with dignity and help them feel they are valued as a human being. And whether they stay connected, they can help the other person move forward whole.
The people who understand that – whether they are nurturing a personal relationship/friendship or they are part of a business trying to gain the loyalty of thousands or even millions of customers or prospects -are the ones who build bonds that have potential to grow to lasting mutual benefits. And if the intent is still to dissolve a bond, they can do it feeling better about themselves and allow the other person to feel better as well.