Effective communication has always been one of the most critical factors of success in any workplace. Now with the social distancing imposed across the country, a number of companies have gone into work-from-home mode. As a result, professional communication has now shifted totally to the digital space. This has thrown a curveball towards many of the working professionals and caught them off their guard. So understanding how to communicate effectively through digital media with colleagues as well as other external stakeholders has become imperative. Following are some tried and tested tips which could help anyone for their professional communication needs:
PROVIDING CLEAR INFORMATION: Workplace communication involves passing information from one person to the other. If a person does not communicate clearly and accurately, it can cause confusion instead of clarity. Now with all communications going digital, it is even more critical to be absolutely clear and specific about what information you want to convey. One must avoid emails written in haste and always plan what he/she wants to say before speaking to avoid miscommunication.
BEING CAUTIOUS WITH EMOJIS: Emojis can help people express tone, meaning, and emotional cues. If someone adds a funny emoji to the "Don't be late to pick up when I call!" text, then it gets easier for the other person to see that the person is joking. But an outpouring of emojis, especially when one doesn't know the other person well, can undermine his/her professionalism. It's best to wait until one has an idea of how the other person will receive emojis before sending a slew of smileys. As a rule of thumb, one emoji per message is appropriate - unless it's the very first time someone is communicating with this person, in which case, it's better to leave them out.
USING EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE: How many times a person can think of a situation when he/she successfully defused an emotional issue via email? The answer will probably be next to none. It's easy for one-line emails or WhatsApp messages to be perceived as passive-aggressive in tone. For example, sending "Let's talk" when someone means "These are good suggestions, let's discuss how to work them into the draft" will make the recipient unnecessarily anxious. Using emotional intelligence is key to ensuring that that digital communications convey the right message and in the right tone. The best way is to put oneself in the reader's shoes and think how it would make him feel if he received that message from someone else.
RESPECTING WORK-LIFE BALANCE: Blurring the line between work life and personal life is quite common in this current work-from-home scenario. A lot of the people might feel tempted to send an email to someone in the off-hours simply because they are sitting in front of the office laptops without nothing much to do. However, it is ill-advised to resort to this habit. Even though people are staying home, everyone has a personal life and people have no right to invade it. So, even if they are itching to send that email to a colleague after working hours, it's better to save it in their draft folder or schedule it to be sent the next morning.
AVOIDING EMAIL WHEN ONE NEED "YES": An in-person request is always more successful than an emailed one. Research shows that people see email asks as untrustworthy and non-urgent. If someone does enter into an email negotiation, it helps to first have an informal discussion over video chat, or on the phone. Human brain is wired to take cues from multiple senses, especially when dealing with a complex situation. It's also advised to use video as much as possible. Studies show that around 65.0 per cent of communication is non-verbal. When people are not on video, they miss emotional cues that come from facial expression and body language.
MINDFUL LISTENING AS OPPOSED TO HEARING: Listening is an important communication skill that people often tend to forget. Most conflicts are results of poor listening. In order to share information with another person, one has to hear what is being communicated. If someone is thinking about his next meeting or planning tonight's dinner during the conversation, he is not paying attention. People working from home are especially susceptible to this vice in the current scenario where they are not in front of the other person while discussing and it is quite easy to get busy with phone or something else. To learn how to listen well, try to keep a mental checklist of all of the important points the person makes.
Most digital miscommunication happens because people don't have access to the non-verbal cues, including tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions, that give people valuable emotional context when they are discussing in person. So these tips can help, but the fail-safe solution is to pick up the phone or get on a video call.
Syed Ibrahim Saajid is a marketing professional working in the Fintech industry.