Your mouth is a fantastic tool. It enables you to stay alive as it gets fuel and water inside you. Your mouth lets you breathe when your nose has given up. And it lets you kiss the ones you love, helping form a bond between you. Not only that, it allows you to talk to other people and get your message across to them in ways that printed words simply cannot do. After all, it’s difficult to convey true feelings in print, but your mouth lets you do that by helping you change the tone of your voice. All tolled, the human mouth is a brilliant, somewhat under-rated, multi-purpose tool.
So what have we stopped using it? We send more SMS text messages than voice calls on mobile phones, for instance. We are sending over 2m emails a minute in the UK alone – way more than phone calls. And now that Twitter has become mainstream, people are “chatting ” away using their keyboards. It’s all as though we’ve forgotten we have a mouth, that is a very useful communications device.
Well, new research with Intel employees has found that in spite of all these wonderful technological advances, talking to each other is still immensely useful…! The researchers found that teams worked best when members were able to speak with each other. Those teams which relied on “asynchronous” communication, such as email, had “co-ordination delays”. Whereas teams that adjusted their working hours so they could talk to each other in real time using the telephone – in spite of being in different continents – were the ones that got on with the job more quickly.
Email, text messaging and Twitter all lull us into a false sense of security. We send a message and as far as we’re concerned “job done”. But of course, that’s only true if the message, as we intended, is received. When we speak, even on the phone, we can tell from the immediate feedback whether we need to explain, provide more details or say it again. We can also immediately negotiate the next steps. With email that might take several messages over a period of days.
What this new study shows is that talking to people usually produces quicker results. So, perhaps we need to ask ourselves a question when we fire up our email program or grab our mobile phone to send a text message. That question is: “Would this be better and quicker if I made a phone call?” It’s likely that much of what we do with written communication, would be more appropriate if we used our mouth instead of our fingers…!