The average person spends almost 25% of waking time on social media, and even more time on screens to communicate by text or email. The means of human conversation have become overwhelmingly digital, and that dynamic is sure to be sustained as new platforms and innovative technologies further connect the world.
In the shift from talking to texting, we’ve lost eye contact, body language, and the opportunity for physical connection – all things that reinforce empathy and promote true understanding. By removing these key pieces of interaction, it is easier to view another individual as an anonymous being, not someone who is actually affected by your words and actions.
Empathy is at the heart of effective communications. It means being able to consider the full contextual experience of another, without pigeon-holing the individual into their perceived group – Hispanic, woman, millennial – and attempting to get to know them on a basic human level.
So how can we bring the best aspects of offline conversations to the online world? Here are four ways to increase empathy in our digital communications:
Say it with a story: Storytelling offers a valuable opportunity to gain a new perspective and better appreciate the information and ideals that matter to an individual. Instead of bogging down the audience with boring facts or statistics, use vivid portrayals to truly transport the reader to a place where they feel engaged with the setting, characters, and scenery. Narratives that offer a description of purpose can help connect an audience to the emotions behind that meaning.
Photos make it personal: Images add another dimension to digital communications and give the audience a clearer (literal) picture of the message. Infographics, “quotos,” and stock photos can capture a moment and tell a story in a quicker way than long-form articles, but still lack the personal touch that is most impactful. Photos of real people consistently receive high social engagement, which means the message is not only being heard but understood.
Video is authentic: Unlike text or still graphics, videos connect the audience to the messenger on a more personal level, with body language and eye contact regained through this medium. Furthermore, live video offers real-time connections that can help a viewer feel closer and more excited about the event, cause, or person that is live-streaming.
Be a better email sender: The average office worker receives over 120 emails each day. Before hitting send, consider how to make your email most impactful for your recipient. A direct subject line, with clearly crafted message, and the right timing can make all the difference. Check out these tips for making the most of every email interaction.
As digital communications evolve, with virtual and augmented realities becoming more ubiquitous, individuals and organizations will need to adapt their strategies to reach their audience wherever they are. Though the platform may change, the message must always start with empathy and understanding.
Jayda Leder-Luis is a Senior Account Executive at Denterlein, a Boston-based public relations firm. Her PR work spans several practice teams, including healthcare, public affairs, real estate, and non-profits. The resident social media guru, Jayda oversees the Denterlein social media accounts and consults across client teams on social and digital strategy.