Social Media – re-inventing social skills

By Jeff  Bowman

The boom in social media has brought about some changes in the social growth and development of social skills in today’s youth.

Recently, I worked with several young entrepreneurs with both High School and some College or University education.

I was quite honestly astounded at the lack of social graces, ability to communicate openly and apparent inability to look directly at me when asking questions or listening. Some of the students were outstanding in these areas, however they were the exception.

The social graces that parents and grandparents instilled in me when I was young seem to be missing today. I recognize that times have changed, where telephone conversation has been replaced with texting, and after school or work activities replaced with gaming and Facebook. There may be more communication going on, but how deep and meaningful is that communication?

These future business people seemed to lack in the area that is most important in building a business – developing long-lasting mutually beneficial relationships.I have worked as a mentor for 9 years now, and the trend is definitely growing. The ability to write detailed business plans has improved, mostly because templates, sample plans and information are available on the Internet. But when it comes to communicating the ideas expressed in the plans and understanding the reasons for making certain decisions, there is a noticeable difference between the written and verbal communication.

The ability to communicate verbally is lost in today’s online world. Text messaging, Twitter, Facebook updates and even email do not contribute to well thought out ideas and the ability to articulate them.

Disagreement with others online is as simple as typing a few derogatory words or removing them from your contact list.  Disagreements in the business world need to be dealt with using a variety of communication and social skills, such as discipline, self-control, honesty, consensus building and teamwork.

Another skill that is critical in the business world is listening.  Consultative sales techniques require honed listening skills in order to uncover customer needs, and offer solutions. I have found that these young business people listen intently, but either don’t hear what I am saying, or don’t comprehend the significance of it.

The written word does not always portray true feelings, and even less so in 140 characters.   Communication breaks down not because of the words used, but by how they were received and interpreted by the other party. Facebook, e-mail, messenger and others have caused me unnecessary trouble  when I have misunderstood what the other person was trying to say @##$&*^&!

I don’t know what the answer is – how we instill  social skills and graces – but I hate to imagine that this is the type of business environment that I will be working in over the next several years. It should start with common courtesy and manners, at home and in the school system.

Maybe we are headed to an electronic world where face to face communication will never exist in the business world and the human voice may never be heard again. It isn’t something that I look forward to.

What about you?

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