Face-to-face communication does things that digital communications (texting, email, etc.) cannot.
Think about the total sum of information that gets transferred if you’re texting with your friend about where to get lunch versus speaking over the phone: on the phone you hear the tone of their voice, if they’re pausing for emphasis, and if they say “like” way too much. Over text you get the words themselves, but fewer of these less-linguistic signals, which can get misleading (or offensive).
Let’s review the logic:
- If we want to understand each other, we have to communicate clearly.
- If we want to communicate clearly, we have to (sometimes) talk in person.
- If we want to (sometimes) talk in person, we have to be interruptible.
So what is interruptibility? The uncommon ability to unglue yourself from your focus to talk with your people. As Allen says:
But there is an important prerequisite to this form of (face-to-face) communication: be interruptible. If you are too busy to listen to your team, don’t expect them to make the time to listen to each other. Yes, you might occasionally lose the deep focus you had when you were interrupted. But an in-person conversation alleviates one of the greatest drains on company resources–a lack of clarity–so it generally is a worthy trade-off.
The next question, then, is to figure out how we can still find deep focus while allowing for productive interruptions. The answer might be to start your day in a cave doing the most complex work, then become interruptible once you’re working on simpler tasks.
Are you interruptible?
How to you manage to get important things done AND allow time for face-to-face interruptions?