HomeFocusFrom emoticons to emotions

USHA PADMASOLA wrote this article pre-Covid. Little did she realize just how relevant her thoughts have become in the current era, where most of our connection and communication in the business world are via screens. How can we adopt her suggestions in 2021?

Recently over a breakfast meeting, en route to a business site, we held some purposeful engaging talks with our 75-year-old negotiator. Needless to say we were sold for his wisdom, business acumen and the warmth that every bit of his personality exuded. Extending his firm handshake, he invited us to visit the NGO he was running in Himachal Pradesh, and we bought a lifetime of friendship.

As opposed to such rich invaluable human experience, a recent digital engagement hit me hard. The fear of automation and machine-age gripped me. This is what happened:

Since I had an issue, I dialed a toll free number of an outsourced customer service center. As the automated voice walked me through the 15-minute route, I was made to feel like a 16-digit numeral by the end of the call. I realized that the modern business houses were hitting an all-time low on customer service and relationship building.

I wondered: Why doesn’t any company want to speak with their customers?

No doubt technology on one hand has allowed us to be more efficient, more productive and more profitable, but technology has also depleted the very humane essence from humans and from the many important aspects of business today. Today when I have a query and make a call to a business house, I expect to speak with a live person and not with an automated digital replica that is designed to maximize profits and minimize interaction.

I face the paradox of having to interact more with my plastic cards and humans with iPod ear-buds. I am made to feel like a prisoner with a code, I feel more like a numeral than a human. Where are all the humans and where is the humaneness?


Business is not just about analytics, conversion rates and clicks through, but it is about making a connection. The feeling of helping a customer tackle a problem and presenting them with a solution is a very palpable achievement. I wonder if I can put a laugh and empathy on an Excel sheet and mark my business. Likes, tweets, shares, posts, upticks and chats, although a few mouse clicks help us express ourselves faster, it’s a fallacy to think that people are more connected than ever. The crux of the matter is that people are connected more to technology – smart phones, tablets, laptops and hardware – and not to real people.

Real people build real, face-to-face, human-to-human relationships. Real people smile at one another and interact. If we’ve forgotten what it’s like to be real humans, let’s:

Use technology as an invertendo to aid us.
Network digitally to connect in a real way.
Get to know someone, earn a relationship, and their business.
Do it the old-fashioned way and make a connection that will last a lifetime.

Real people express themselves through real emotions not emoticons.

Illustrations by ARATI SHEDDE



Usha Padmasola


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