It’s hard to top email for convenience. According to new research, however, we all sound smarter when we communicate verbally. Findings of a recent study cited in The New York Times suggest that phone conversations or face-to-face interactions may be more effective when trying to impress a prospective employer or to close a deal.
Vocal cues “show that we are alive inside — thoughtful, active…Text strips that out,” said Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and one of two co-authors of the paper, “The Sound of Intellect,” recently published in Psychological Science.
In an experiment presented in the paper, M.B.A. candidates were asked to prepare a pitch to a prospective employer — a two-minute proposal that the researchers recorded on video. Separately, the researchers recruited 162 people to evaluate these pitches. Some of the evaluators watched the video; a second group listened to the audio only; a third group read a transcript of the pitch. The evaluators who heard the pitch—via audio or video—rated the candidates’ intellect higher than those who read the transcript. In a second experiment, evaluators read a pitch specifically drafted by candidates to be read, rather than spoken. The result was the same.
We are not surprised by the results of these experiments. Good writing is an excellent tool, but no writing can convey the nuances of the spoken word, which is embellished by tone and cadence and amplified by gestures and facial expressions. Remember this study the next time you ask yourself if you should press “send” or speak your piece.
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