People Need People, Part 1: The Benefits of Face-to-Face Physical Communication

Screen Shot 2019 01 04 at 7.46.03 PMAs we all know, this is a difficult time — for ourselves, our families, and the whole world. In addition to the detrimental physical health and economic effects, media outlets are noting the potential mental health effects of social isolation. As a company who thrives on working directly with other people, we thought this was as good a moment as any to reflect on an irrefutable fact: People need people. 

Why are we all noticing the discomfort of social isolation, even the introverts among us? In a modern age with countless apps for messaging, live streaming, and video chatting, aren’t these digital tools sufficient to keep us connected? While these methods of virtual communication are a blessing during this difficult time, the truth is that nothing can replace face-to-face physical communication. 

Not convinced? Keep reading to learn the benefits of face-to-face physical communication, and why it works.

The Science Behind Face-to-Face Physical Communication

Although this time in history is unique, psychologists and other scientists have been studying face-to-face communication for years. Here are a few facts:

  • Face-to-face communication is better for your emotional health than sending a text message or email*
  • Exclusively using social media to interact with close friends can weaken friendship bonds (Dunbar, 2016)
  • Face-to-face interactions cause the firing of something called “mirror neurons,” where we subconsciously mimic body movements, gestures, and expressions. Mirror neurons enable us to understand other people’s emotions and intentions, which goes a long way toward building relationships.**
  • A study by researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine revealed that socializing in person causes the release of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes happiness.***
  • In the business world, one study found that face-to-face requests were 34 times more successful than emails! Participants overestimated the power of their persuasiveness in emails, and underestimated the power of face-to-face communication (Roghanizad & Bohns, 2017).

The Top 5 Benefits of Meeting and Working Face-to-Face

Of course, there are limits right now on what we can do physically. When the world reopens, here are some things to consider about prioritizing face-to-face physical collaboration, meetings, and marketing over digital-only approaches.

  1. Build relationships. Working together in the same physical place provides the opportunity to interact and socialize, building strong working/human relationships.
  2. Detect non-verbal communication. Body language, facial expressions, even attentiveness and engagement — none of these can be detected over an email.
  3. Avoid misunderstandings. As #2 suggests a lot of information is communicated in person that can be missed over text or email. Speaking face-to-face helps make sure your message is clear.
  4. Boost effectiveness. Consider sending an email and spending a few hours responding to questions and clarifying your request. Compare that to the efficiency of being able to explain something in person, clearing up misunderstandings and answering questions in real time.
  5. Foster trust. This also can tie back into non-verbal communication. Showing that you are listening, taking notes, and repeating back main points to show you’ve understood them builds trust. 

If you have read this blog and are now feeling disheartened, knowing that it may be a while still before physical communication can resume — don’t lose hope just yet! The good news is that some benefits of face-to-face communication, such as the ability to collaborate in real time or understand non-verbal communication, can be recreated using video conferencing. Our recent blog post, 4 Ways Brands Can Make Real Connections Virtually During The Pandemic, has some great tips for staying connected virtually. 

Stay healthy — from the Pro Motion team.



Dunbar, R. I. M. (2016). Do online social media cut through the constraints that limit the size of offline social networks? Royal Society Open Science, 3, 150292.

Roghanizad, M. M. and Bohns, V. K. (2017). Ask in person: You’re less persuasive than you think over email. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 69, 223-226.

*Face-to-face interaction acts like a ‘vitamin’ for depression, study suggests 

**The Mirror Neuron Revolution: Explaining What Makes Humans Social 

***‘Love hormone’ may play wider role in social interaction than previously thought, scientists say 


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