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September 25, 2008

Is Face-to-Face Communication Always the Way to Go?

A common assumption is that communicating face-to-face is more persuasive than email. That's not always true, according to a 2002 study. Researchers found that men are often more responsive to email because it downplays their competitive tendencies. On the other hand, women react better to in-person encounters because they are more relationship-oriented.

These same researchers found that someone will help another person if they feel a high level of "oneness" with the person--that is, the extent to which they indentify with the other person. When the oneness was low between men, email was much more effective. When the oneness was high for women, face-to-face interactions were much better.

Whether pitching an idea, working with a new client, or finding a job, we often have to take risks and reach out to people we don't know. We don't want to perpetuate gender stereotypes, but this research is useful to keep in mind as we make those cold calls. Based on what we know about the person, does email or face-to-face interaction make more sense? Face-to-face isn't always the answer.

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