Need a Response? Face-to- Face Is 34 Times More Effective than Email

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Photo by Cristina Gottardi

We are doing a summer blog series aimed at those who are either starting a missional enterprise or thinking about starting one. During this series, we will look at theological and practical concerns of missional entrepreneurs.

This week’s post in our series aimed at budding missional entrepreneurs comes from our own Kenda Creasy Dean with practical advice for communication in a digital age!

In case you thought that email or text would do the trick, think again:  new research reported in the Harvard Business Review (Vanessa K. Bohns, “A Face-to-Face Request Is 34 Times More Successful Than an Email,” Harvard Business Review (April 11, 2017), https://hbr.org/2017/04/a-face-to-face-request-is-34-times-more-successful-than-an-email)finds that people overestimate the persuasive power of text-based communication, and underestimate the persuasive power of talking in person. One study found that a face-to-face request was 34 times more effective than an emailed one.  When participants were instructed to ask 10 strangers to complete a survey, half made the request over email, and half did it in person.  Both groups felt equally confident about the effectiveness of their requests.  

One study found that a face-to-face request was 34 times more effective than an emailed one.

But wowzer, in terms of who actually responded?  No contest.  Why was face-to-face communication 34 times more successful? Researchers hypothesize that, in person, we send and decode subtle non-verbal cues that communicate trustworthiness.  The moral of the story seems to be: no matter how digitally connected we may be, nothing matters more to us than be asked to do something face-to-face.

Photo by Matheus Ferrero

Every day, young people are asked to commit their lives to something of value. Which raises the question: if churches are not making the persuasive, face-to-face asks of young people. . . who is?

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Kenda Creasy Dean

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