Communications 4/6/2020

“Faceless” Communications Can Lead to Mixed Messages

There’s no shortage of Coronavirus-related advice for companies that have made the switch to telework. Advice on technology, keeping your team engaged, scheduling, and even on what to wear if you’ll be on camera.

This isn’t about any of that. It’s much simpler and more fundamental. It’s about communicating with colleagues you no longer see every day, and making sure you do it well.

Until reality flips back around to something more familiar, we have a few reminders that can help you (and all your communications) say what you intend to say — from words and punctuation you should avoid to emoji advice you might find surprising.

For All Communications

  • Start with something positive. It only takes a minute to start a conversation or a meeting with a positive vibe. A simple “Thanks for what you’ve been doing” or “I can see you’ve put a lot of effort into this” can set the mood.
  • Avoid certain words. Absolutes like “never” and “always” can have a negative implication, especially when you’re not communicating face to face.
  • Be definitive with your expectations. When you see people in the office every day, it’s easy to ask for a quick update or remind someone of a deadline. In a telework setting, vague direction and unclear timelines can derail a project. Instead of “get something to me ASAP” or “when you get a chance,” give exact expectations and deadlines.

On the Phone

  • Pay attention to your body language. If you find yourself waving your hands around, what is your tone of voice saying? If you’re slumping in your chair, are you truly listening…and can others tell?
  • Be careful with sarcasm. People on the other end of your clever remarks can’t see if you’re smiling or raising your eyebrows. Your quick wit may be interpreted as degrading or insulting.
  • Listen. We’d all like to fast forward to the action items in a work call. But if you listen to understand, and not merely to reply, you probably won’t need that follow-up meeting.
  • Be aware of silence. Muting phones on group calls helps avoid background interruptions, but silence can be heard as negative or disengaged. Ask everyone to unmute and contribute.

In E-Mails

  • Read it before you hit send. Before you fire off a quick reply, take a few seconds to read it from the perspective of the recipient.
  • Watch punctuation. You may add an exclamation point because you’re enthusiastic or excited. But someone else might wonder if you’re upset or angry. Case in point: “I can’t believe you did this!” And, oddly enough, this same concept applies to the beloved ellipse…it leaves too much room for interpretation.
  • Go ahead, use the emoji. If you want to make absolutely sure someone knows your tone is positive and friendly, throw in the smile emoji. Everybody’s ears can hear a smiley face.