The pandemic changed nearly everything – workplace communication included.
The old rules of communicating at work don’t need to be thrown out. But how we interact with employees, bosses and co-workers isn’t like it used to be.
“None of us today needs a linguistics degree to know that the ways we communicate meaning today are far more confusing than ever,” says Erica Dhawan, in her book, Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection, No Matter the Distance. “Contemporary communication relies more than ever on how we say something rather than on what we say.”
So while you don’t need hardcore rules on communicating, you want to share guidelines that reflect how people go about business now.
Make reading top priority
“Reading carefully is the new listening,” Dhawan says.
We talk less and write more at work these days. Most communication is through email and messaging apps. Problem is, people tend to skim or search when they read on screens. That can lead to more misunderstanding and miscommunication than in a conversation.
Conscientious reading needs to be a new priority. You don’t want to sacrifice thoroughness for the sake of speed.
Instead, take time to soak in all the relevant points and questions.
Make your written words count
On the other side of the thorough reading coin is conscious writing. More messages than ever are relayed via the written word. Make yours count.
A dropped word or forgotten punctuation can doom a message. That’s why it’s critical to proofread – or use grammar and proofreading programs – before you send.
Also, bold the text or use bullets so people understand what’s most important and your expectations.
Dial for effectiveness
An effective phone call can prevent confusion, miscommunication and time-sucking email exchanges.
Instead of asking one tiny question after another in writing, you can formulate the right questions and answers in a phone call. Call others when you:
- receive a confusing or unclear message,
- need to address a sensitive subject, or
- want to build goodwill.
Set a schedule
With so many workplace communication channels buzzing at us all day, it’s tempting to respond immediately as you would if you were chatting.
But that’s not effective. Most messages don’t need immediate responses. You’ll likely give more thorough responses if you take time to let information or questions set in. Then you can formulate the right answer.
Schedule time to check and respond to communication so you aren’t interrupted and distracted all day. You might even set a standard for communication responses on your team. For instance, phone calls returned within two hours, email responses within 36 hours and Slack responses within a day.
Find your voice, accept others’
Your communication style will evolve. Just try to stay consistent – and be understanding of others’ style.
“There isn’t a better or worse way of communicating between emojis and bullet points. The key for leaders is to create a digital environment that encourages a range of communication styles, so that everyone can engage authentically,” Dhawan says.