Want to Build Lasting Relationships? Make the Ink Smear
It seems like at least once per day I come across a news article titled “Will Bots Replace _________?” where you can insert any profession “destined for obsolescence” by advancements in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (Doctors, Lawyers, Customer Service and on and on.) While AI continues improve and impress, I’m reminded of an experience I had that seems to put this into perspective for me.
A few years ago, I received a piece of mail that was congratulating me on a milestone professional accomplishment. The note was printed on high quality executive stationary, and the kind words waxed poetic about my professional achievements. In the moment, it made me feel great that a respected figure took the time to recognize my work. I looked closer at the note however and put a drop of water on my finger and ran it over the signature… interestingly the ink didn’t smear as a wet signature normally would.
As I inspected the note further, I could clearly see that the signature had been printed by a laser printer. Instead of a personal note, I had received a mass produced form letter, one that likely never touched the hands of the person from whom it was sent. As I thought more, I wondered if the letter even came from the same office as the sender, or perhaps more likely, it was sent by an outsourced vendor who mails these notes on the sender’s behalf. I envision lines of code informing giant laser printers, which fire these letters off, one hundred per minute.
Instead of feeling valued and important, I felt the exact opposite. Certainly this wasn’t the intention when this “process” was set up, but the note certainly destroyed any goodwill it was meant to build.
I share this story as context to lay out one very obvious point; We are human beings. We, by nature, require human connection. As in the aforementioned story, it’s easier to have machines do the work for us, however it would have been one thousand times more effective for the person to have communicated the message themselves (or at least sign their own name.) Certainly automating some (or even most) of that process is efficient, but eliminating the human connection altogether defeats the purpose.
Those of us who seek to build lasting relationships need to choose the human connection. It’s fine to let the machine help us do things, but the machine can’t replace the personal touch that we naturally desire. So be a person. Make the phone call. Write the note. Say thank you. Be helpful. Build trust. Be authentic. Make the ink smear.
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