How We Connect

How We Connect
Photo by Toa Heftiba / Unsplash

Ten years ago, I used to work with this server administrator who worked in another office. Every time I called him, I could have sworn I was a massive pain to him. Every request was unreasonable and was ruining his day.

Or so I thought.

I got to meet him in person two years later. Turns out he was one of the happiest people I've ever met, and he was appreciative of how I did my best to solve a problem before coming to him. How I thought he sounded on the phone was not at all how he actually was.

We often take for granted the vastly different levels of bandwidth between methods of communication. While network bandwidth is one way to interpret that, what I'm referring to is information bandwidth.

A phone call provides incredibly low bandwidth. You get one sense: the person's voice on the end of the call. A video call is better, and in today's remote-working world, we may think this is enough. It's not.

Every year, my team at work gets together for a week of meetings, discussions, and team building. Aside from the obvious perk of being able to travel to another city on someone else's dime, the other, more valuable perk is building the connections with your team.

The meetings are useful, sure. Being able to get something planned out on a new feature, great. But what I get out of it most is connections with my coworkers.

The ability to whisper something to the person next to you. Or to observe the minor changes in someone's facial expressions. Or to see someone deep in thought in the corner, giving you the opportunity to invite them into the conversation. Or to deescalate a potential misunderstanding.

We pick up on so many subtle things when in person. Maybe one day we'll figure out how to digitize all that. But we're not there yet.