As social distancing and remote working becomes the new normal, virtual teams are becoming commonplace. This leads to the most commonly asked question these days – “How to best communicate in the digital age?”

We all want to know how to avoid sending passive aggressive emails, hit the right tone over text messages and do we really need all those exclamations marks? (That’s a personal one for me as our Recruitment Coordinator loves them a lot!)

There have been many times where I’ve asked a candidate why they are leaving and there’s been countless times where it’s started with miscommunication via email that has escalated. Experience has taught me that taking a moment to think about the other person reading your messages is vital to building strong communication and trust.

I have a business friend and we enjoy bouncing ideas or just having quick catch-ups on how our week has been but, we can chat a little too long at times (a recruiter that can talk, no way you say!). We have an unwritten rule where we text each other first “Can I call you, not urgent”, Need to run something past you, are you free?” It’s a level of respect for each other’s time.

Quick and easy ways to avoid digital miscommunication and stay connected:

  • Emojis – We know to use these to express tone, meaning and emotional cues. Remember to proceed with caution – especially if you don’t know the other person well, it can undermine your professionalism. Our rule of thumb – 1 common emoji per email or message.
  • Typos – Do you want the reader to feel uncared for? Of course not. Implement this step now – STOP – REREAD – SEND. Typos aren’t the end of the world but it can be seen as not taking the time for that person. We recommend – look away from the screen, come back and review. For really important messages or sales pitches read it out loud, sometimes the eyes will deceive you.
  • Emotional Cues – Alongside proof reading is making sure your message is clear and not sending unintended emotional cues. We like to use lists with a heading that leads the reader through. One -line emails or Instant Messages can easily be perceived as passive aggressive. Take into account the reader’s perspective.
  • Video – Use video conference as much as possible, especially in the early stages of working with someone – get to know each other and build trust. Seeing each other’s facial expressions and conversation cues will allow you to read better between the lines and interpret their emails. Ultimately, it allows you to develop a genuine relationship.
  • Urgency – Always communicate a level of urgency, especially on instant message platforms. Always ask, ‘is this a good time?’ before sending a request that will take time. Be specific with time frames – “I need some help with X by X, is this possible?” Respect the DND mode when it’s on, use another form of communication if it’s urgent.
  • Negotiation – Avoid emails when you need a ‘yes’, most people see email as non-urgent. If you are entering into a negotiation, verbal communication is always best.
  • Off hours – Don’t and we repeat, don’t send emails or instant messages out of hours if it’s not urgent and you can email or respond later. If you are working unusual hours caption your email with “I’m working flexible hours, I do not expect you to respond to this immediately” If you can use the scheduling tool.

Most miscommunication happens when we don’t read the verbal cues properly; this includes tone of voice, body language and facial expressions – all of these give us valuable emotional context.

In the digital and remote working world this is heightened. We hope these tips ensure you are as productive and connected as ever.

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