Communication Then and Now: Is it Really That Different?

Some of us may remember the term “pen pals”. In fact, the days of corresponding via telephone and letter writing were not that long ago, although in this virtual age such means appear all but antiquated. So, have the “good old days” of pen, ink and voice been outdated? Well, the answer to this is certainly a resounding “yes” in many cultures and business around the world. We now utilise high-speed Internet, fax, VoIP conference calling and the wonders of email. However, are these means truly that much different than the days when we used to scribe letters, lick a stamp and send a package from our home or office? You may be surprised to learn the answer to this question.

Physicality Versus a “Personal Touch”

Letters gave us a very personal connection to the sender. His or her handwriting was unique, the stationery could provide an air of professionalism and over time, a business could develop a long-standing relationship via these means. While email and fax may indeed be endowed with electronic signatures and templates, there is truly very little difference. To be sure, the smell of ink and the appearance of cursive has been all but replaced by fonts, email “sigs” and an electronic address, but do not let outward appearances be misleading. If anything, emails can be just as personal, humourous and intimate. Our styles still shine through; including misspellings, incorrect grammar and other nuances that define us as individuals (although we hope not too much so).

More Information Equates to More Trust

In the business world, the purpose of any correspondence is to provide a recipient with relevant information. One of the hindrances that occurred during the “good old days” was the fact that only so much information could be sent at any given time. For instance, imagine sending a prototype for a new machine by post! Thankfully, the virtual age allows access to such pertinent and potentially life-altering information at the click of a button. Not only does this help a business or individual display an idea in the clearest way possible, but it indeed allows for more robust and transparent relationships to be built.

The Power of Sight and Voice

Trust is built through repeated contact. A supplier or colleague was forced to rely on the occasional telephone call or letter years ago. Now, they can see one another via the power of a virtual conference call instantaneously. This allows us to place a face to a product and such advantages can hardly be overlooked. Although this may take place through the rather “impersonal” use of binary 1’s and 0’s, such a method is actually more personal and intimate than by handwritten letters or a voice alone.

So, while the “good old days” may be quickly turning into sweet, nostalgic memories, we shouldn’t confuse technological progress with a lack of intimacy. Indeed, building relationships with a client from a few kilometers away or across the globe has never been easier. The “good old days” are still good. These modern times are even better.

Author: Hilde van den Braak

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