In our age of unparalleled technological efficiency, the absence of human touch is palpable.
My arrival in the United States last week, despite being super-efficient, left me feeling uneasy. The once familiar “welcome home” from the immigration officer had disappeared, replaced by a seamless automated system that whisked me from aircraft to cab without the need for any human interaction. I missed the moment of human connection that the airport greeting used to provide. My Uber driver also showed no need or desire to communicate with me; his technology provided him with whatever information he needed about me and my destination. This made it impossible for me to glean some local flavor and human perspective from conversation with him. Even my hotel receptionist seemed more robotic than empathetic. The efficiency of the hotel arrival and check-in left me with all the amenities and conveniences I needed, yet the disquieting feeling lingered – a journey completed without a single meaningful connection, personal greeting, or the spontaneous exchange of words.
We have engineered humanity out of our day-to-day lives.
This all gave me a visceral experience of something that we all know intellectually: We have engineered humanity out of our day-to-day lives. In the relentless pursuit of efficiency, comfort and streamlined processes, we have sanitized our lives, leaving them devoid of the nourishment derived from human interaction. Humans have a need to feel heard and a need to hear. We have a need to feel valued and to show others that we value them. These interactions nourish our souls and grow our interiors. Many people are feeling starved of this nourishment.
This thought came home to me even more starkly when a client in the health care industry explained to me how the art of listening in the diagnostic process has been eclipsed by technology. While artificial intelligence increasingly excels in its ability to diagnose, the nuanced skill of empathetic listening and questioning critical to holistic patient care, remains uniquely human. Yet, physicians, bound by constraints of time and measurement metrics, struggle to engage in these vital conversations.
There is a unique opportunity for businesses who are willing to do things a little differently.
In an era where people are starved for human connection and a feeling of caring and being valued, there is a unique opportunity for businesses who are willing to do things a little differently. Of course, technology should be used in every way possible to improve efficiency and reduce costs, but equally important, we should seek niche opportunities to touch our customers humanly, in ways that technology cannot. When so much communication can happen digitally, I encourage you to differentiate yourself with face-to-face meetings with your employees and clients where possible. In these meetings be sure to add value in ways that couldn’t be added digitally. Have the kind of conversations with them that you couldn’t have online and show them a level of caring they wouldn’t feel if you weren’t physically present. In the period where digital connection can be bought or acquired with a click, invest in the kind of connection that needs time, effort and the true interest in the well-being of other people.
Do it now: Open your 2024 calendar and arrange a few face-to-face meetings during Q1 that you weren’t planning to have. Prepare two dimensions of conversation for each: a practical dimension with specific objectives, and a qualitative dimension that will express authentic care for the other and connection with them.
In the race for efficiency, we must not sacrifice the very fabric of our humanity – the need to be heard, valued, and connected.