Since the invention of the telephone, we have been communicating virtually, which means not in the same space as the person we are connecting with. It was a big deal getting the answering machine, you didn’t ever miss a call. Now beeps, texts, tweets, faxes, emails, whatsapps, Zooms, Teams, Facetimes, to name only a few, that offer us a plethora of ways to communicate~ all virtually~ but without any real understanding of the equally many ways we can be misunderstood.
As someone who teaches communication, I have witnessed the ways different styles of communicators use, abuse or hide from various kinds of virtual communication. Now that virtual is our new normal, it has become increasingly evident that we need some sort of navigational tools when hoping to get authentic, creative and meaningful connection from our team members, leaders, employees and don’t forget family and friends.
ETIQUETTE RULES~ a must!!
Number one on the list is determining together virtual communication etiquette for your group or office. The human mind WILL imagine the worst when we do not hear back from a communication we deem important. There are always technical problems to be sure, but usually it is a tidy way to avoid a difficult conversation~ just pretend you didn’t get it. Or you overlooked it in the hundreds of junk mail bleeps. Establish a time by which you will respond, even if it is just to say, “I got your message and am pondering it. Thanks!” Set the example as a leader and expect others to do the same. Hold them accountable if they do not. You cannot imagine how this ONE thing will shift the group subtext from doubt and concern to trust and confidence.
KNOW YOUR COMMUNICATION TYPE~ it makes all the difference.
Secondly, know what kind of communicator you are and the ones you deal with. Let’s say you are on a Zoom call. Already those extroverts (Verbal and Fiery Communicators) will be looking forward to it, connecting, sharing information, persuading, even intimidating and so on. They often take the lead in the conversations, so what you hear is from them. Reading this, if you are a Feeling Communicator, you dread these group video calls. Not just because you aren’t an extrovert, but because in the virtual world you are missing many of the cues you use to gauge the safety of the conversation. Body language, subtle innuendos, looks askance, where people sit and with whom and the energy of the group all help inform some people of vital decision making criteria. If you are a Practical Communicator, you may dread the virtual video conferencing meetings as well, but for different reasons. You want to get to the meat of the issue and move on. In a meeting in person, you can stand up, go to the head of the table and clear your voice and get the stuff moving along. Not so easy virtually.
BE CLEAR AND CLEAN~ don’t trigger stuff unless you intend to.
Know that if there are ways to misunderstand each other, it will happen. Everyone sees the world out of their own filters, so no matter how clear you think you are, if someone is reading your text through a lens that says “he dislikes me”, that is what they will see. You cannot clear people’s lenses for them, but you CAN eliminate ambiguities, vague insinuations, and comments that are really your stuff, but what the heck, you need to get them off your chest. Read or listen to your virtual communications yourself after you create them. If someone were sending them to you, how would you feel? Would something snag your ego? Raise the hackles? If you are intending that, keep them. But if you are trying to get the most out of your co-workers, friends or family, delete before sending.
Those are just some of the tools I offer in my new virtual training Navigating the Murky Waters of Virtual Communication. Becoming adept at virtual communication certainly gives you and your team a strong advantage!