People less truthful when texting

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Not really a shocker, but a recent study done by Direct Line Insurance in the UK shows people tend to “fib” more often in texting and social network postings than in face to face meetings.  As communication becomes less intimate, avoiding hearing and seeing each other as a message is conveyed, it becomes easier to stretch truths, omit facts, and even outright lie.

This is a crucial point for managers to remember, as well as sales and service reps.

I want to stress that I am not saying we should stop using IM.  We all agree that IM, email, and the phone are not only important but absolutely necessary for efficient communication in today’s world.  However, as anyone who’s been broken up with over the phone (or worse, by IM) can attest, it’s far too tempting to use asynchronous and distancing mediums to convey bad news, creative answers, and generally try to control information that really needs to be open and accessible.

Why is this?

For starters, no one likes to be the bearer of bad news.  Especially if the bad news is due to their own actions.  It’s the equivalent of hiding in a corner if you’ve broken your mother’s favorite vase.  “Creative answering” is also rooted in the human need to make others happy.  There is a perception that exaggerating ‘okay’ news into great news and downplaying bad news helps keep people happy.  In either case, there is a great desire to not be seen or heard while conveying these messages because body language and vocal tone can reveal that all is not as was presented.

The point of the News Blaze article is as strong an argument for video in a distributed organization as cutting travel costs and speeding the sales process:  “…this research shows that if you want to get the truth from someone, face to face is the best way to get a straight answer.”  Managers take note:  If you can’t talk to your employee face to face about an important issue, fire up that webcam.

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