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The dying art of communication

People laughing

Communication has never been so prevalent, over the past decades, humans have invented more and more advanced ways for people to exchange and communicate with each other all around the world.

From telephones, to email, text messaging, video conferencing, social media, FaceTime, ChatRoulette… Who knows what will come next? Holograms? Maybe we’re just a couple years away from sending Star Wars-like messages to each other. And won’t that be neat?

In the midst of this communication overload, we might tend to think we are communicating more with each other, but sometimes it seems like the actual content of that communication has regressed. It seems we are “networking more and communicating less”.

As with any media, in the same way that magazines or TV have the uncanny ability to distort our perception of reality, social media has had a profound effect on people because it has provided them with a media channel for themselves… A place where they can be at the centre of their own broadcast, where they can decide what they want their audience to see or not to see.

Because everything can be thought out, evaluated and reworked before it gets sent as a message to someone else, it seems sometimes like something is being lost: the art of real, immediate, unfiltered interaction. Social media has in some ways endorsed the public display of human narcissism. We’re more concerned about the influence we can have on other people or by the influence that other people can have on us, rather than thinking about human interaction as a two-way street.

Working for a delivery company, I’ve had the opportunity (so has everybody else in the office) to do deliveries myself and see what it’s like to be on the road all day and to meet person after person (business executives, secretaries, waiters, CEOs, florists, bakers, you name it…) even if for a brief period of time. What I’ve discovered after doing this myself is that we often underestimate the positive impact a brief yet friendly conversation can have on your current state of mind.

Engaging with a stranger and exchanging pleasantries has a very reassuring effect on me. On a very cheesy level, it reminds me that we’re just human after all and as social beings, we feed on human interaction, even if the content is unimportant. It makes me feel like I’ve got much more in common with people outside of my “network” than I thought I did. And it reminds me that – with a few exceptions – most people, if given the opportunity, will want to interact.

One day I drove into a CBD building’s loading dock to do a delivery and found myself confronted to the rudest, least helpful man I’d ever met in my life. I was asking him how to get to a certain level and instead of helping me, he proceeded to make me feel guilty for having the nerve to walk into HIS loading dock without knowing where I was going. I looked at him, bewildered and amazed that he had actually succeeded at making me feel guilty for…. Nothing?! After a long and sweaty pause, I looked at him and said “I’m just asking you for help, Sir”. I would like to think my plea for help brought him back to his own humanity because he eventually gave in and replied “Ok, take that lift, etc.”

As I was walking away from him I wondered what possesses people to make life so much more complicated for themselves and others. I felt uncomfortable the whole time I was in that building and to this day, hope nothing will never lead me there again.

On the other hand, last weekend I stopped at a convenience store with a couple friends to buy a bottle of water. The old man behind the counter looked at me and said “$400 please”. As childish as the joke was, we still laughed whole heartedly and engaged in meaningless banter until he ended up giving us the water for free. When my friends and I left the convenience store, as you can imagine, we looked at each other and took a moment to revel in that great feeling that is human decency. Obviously we didn’t really care that we’d saved $3, we just cared that we felt happy for some reason.

A lot of studies seem to suggest that there is a positive feedback loop between kindness and happiness. Being kind makes you feel happy and therefore you have a higher probability of replicating kind behaviour because it makes you happy. On a professional level, it also makes for great customer experience obviously and the way we communicate this to our drivers is not by asking them to stick to a ready-made formula of customer service, but by telling them to be kind and have fun. At Sherpa, we tend to find that when you let people be themselves and give them the tools to succeed, (most of the time) they’ll naturally provide better results.

As a driver or as a business, do you find this to be true? Let us know in the comment section below.