“Face to face is the only way to communicate.”

“You can’t pick up on tone of voice or body language if you aren’t in the same place.”

“Remote communications lack so much.”

I hear this a lot of the time from people who don’t work remotely all that much, or communicate a lot with people across different geographies or time zones.

People think you’ll miss out on so much by not speaking face to face or on the phone. There’s a certain amount that’s true about that, I’m not going to argue. But like any communication or detail, there’s a lot more richness you can get without realising.

This screengrab below shows a Skype text conversation with Debbie Carter, the Editor in Chief at Training Journal.

For me this was just a normal communication typing between us. It’s only when Debbie said that I don’t sound like my bubbly self it made me think – how is she picking up on that? What is different from normal?

There’s no tone to my voice, there’s no facial expression for Debbie to pick up on.

Let me share this one just as an example of a much earlier conversation from Skype:

This is a time where Debbie didn’t say I wasn’t bubbly. This was a “normal” interaction.

So what are the differences between these two? What are you picking up from text conversation? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments, below.


  1. Interesting Jo 🙂 there is something in what you say. However I think you do need to ‘know’ the person well, as I do you, to be able to distinguish changes in mood through text. I’d be interested to find out more on what you see as this digital ‘body language’ as I’m not sure I could read signals from other people as well as I do from you – someone I’ve known for probably 10 years or so.

    1. Hi Debbie, thanks so much for your comments. Yes, we’ve known each other a long time and that definitely helps as you have picked up on language, the way I say things and probably much more.

      Perhaps the key is the knowing of someone, and from there it’s the detail that you can pick up on. Rather than the detail leading the insight. I’m not sure and learning as I think about it 😀

  2. I can see an opportunity for a book here Jo!
    Really interesting….i am a face to face person…but i do realise we need to adapt to the age we are in. As in everything we need to utilise resources effectively…whether they are face to face, text or chat – building rapport is so key!

    1. Sarah, brilliant, I shall keep more notes!

      This is one of the points I find interesting, that we do need to embrace these new ways of working and therefore be able to find new ways to do some of the things we have done face to face so far.

      Are there particular ways of doing something with more modern technology you find is ok, or particularly different?

  3. I think it’s just like in real life… sometimes you ‘get’ people straight away and for others, it takes time to understand what they mean when they speak. I don’t think it matters whether you’ve met in real life or not, but it can take time to read the other person’s tone / mood. Emojis certainly help, but not everyone uses them and just because they can’t figure out how to insert a smiley face, doesn’t mean they’re not smiling! 😉

    1. Hi Jennifer, thanks for your comment. Yes, sometimes you can gel with a person – their views, values, communication and more. And yes, understanding tone and mood specific to the person will take time. And the smileys are such an important part of modern communication, though often frowned upon as not being business like 🙁

  4. As mentioned previously, I think a lot of it is the unspoken language that develops between people who have built up a relationship. However, there were some structural and stylistic differences that jumped out at me. In the first exchange the “Hi there | I’m getting there” part was stilted, staccato, and felt stuck in place, one thought at a sluggish time. In the second the “You’ll have a great time | Yep, Tues …” is bouncier, more lively, a more active rhythm. We all have distinct patterns to our texts which carry more information than we think I’M HOME.

    1. Hi Valary, thank you so much for your comment, and such an interesting observation about the staccato affect of the language!

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