Remember your mother telling you to look people in the eye when you talk with them? That advice has been a mainstay of communication in our society for so long that when a person does not look us in the eye, we assume he or she is hiding something.

Over the years, communication has changed so that, more often than not, we now “talk” with others without being face-to-face. High-tech tools that put the world at our fingertips make mother’s advice seem as relevant as the Model-T.

In what seems like ages ago, we embraced e-mail as most convenient for us and for the person on the other end. After all, you could e-mail someone anytime and they could open it whenever they chose. Then came the era of texting, a great way to get a message to someone who will likely check it right away.

E-mails and texts save time and make us more efficient. But do they make us more effective? If we are not careful, our technical gadgets can build walls rather than bridges, leaving us disconnected in ways that matter.

I recently heard an interview with William Powers, whose new book, “Hamlet’s Blackberry: To Surf or Not To Surf” deals with the unintended impact of our communication tools. Powell described a recent visit to New York City where, as he was standing at a busy crosswalk in Manhattan, he noticed those around him staring into digital devices, completely unaware that they were in one of the greatest cities in the world. Powell said these gadgets lull us into ignoring our surroundings including the people closest to us because we put ourselves continuously “on call.”

We have become experts at multi-tasking. Because we can be connected to everyone all the time, we often jump from one project to the next, staying there only until something more compelling beckons. Our efforts to figure out solutions to problems on one job are interrupted when we are alerted to something else that seems more urgent, more easily solved or more interesting. As a result, relationships and businesses suffer.

I believe we should consider the impact these digital tools could be having on our businesses. Are we allowing them to take the place of personal and meaningful contacts with our agents, adjusters and property owners?

There’s no substitute for telling an adjuster face-to-face why a suggested shortcut will not work, or for explaining to a property owner the pros and cons of a new product his neighbor is using. You can’t look someone in the eye when you are sending a text or e-mail. While those methods may be convenient for transmitting information, they are messages, not true dialog.

Restoration contractors would do well to remember that we must occasionally look our clients and associates in the eye in order to develop the trust that a successful relationship depends upon. As is usually the case, mother was right.