Author’s note: this is part of a long blog series on our ability to communicate effectively and efficiently. Feel free to look back on previous blogs and explore previous material on communicating and how you can communicate better.
Part 11 – Non-Face-to-Face Communications
My initial reaction to thinking about having difficult conversations through a non-face-to face format is “don’t.” You will lose all the benefits of body language and tone that is needed to effectively convey your message.
But, social media and other technological advancements have assumed a larger footprint in our employment structure. Many employees simply prefer to work remotely (from home, coffee shop, on the road, etc.). In addition, a growing portion of our work force communicates mostly through non-face-to-face means; so, to better communicate with them, we need to adopt the same pathways.
With that in mind, to be able to have effective and efficient communications with our employees but non-face-to-face, we need to develop new and better communication skills. As employers and future employers, this is a skill set we need to develop and perfect now.
Since these communications will always need to occur in an employer/employee relationship, but not done face-to-face, my advice is to start thinking more abut the words we use. While we cannot show body language through the non-face-to-face formats, the words we use must convey our body language and tone.
We need to expand our vocabulary to accurately express our thoughts. We need to add sensory words that better convey our message. In person, we might be able to covey a sound by imitating the noise. But in writing, we need to not just say it was noisy, but that it was creaking, rasping, scratching, whatever is a more descriptive word for our meaning.
The same is true for our emotions. We can show irritation and its various levels through a frown, scowl, grimace, or sneer, but in writing we need to use words to show that same message. We need to be more precise; are we resentful, irritated, provoked, annoyed, upset, enraged, or infuriated.
The words we use need to be unambiguous. When we refer to they, we need to be clear who they are. References to time need to be specific. Our sentences need to avoid multiple references that lead to ambiguous meanings. And, our writing skills need to rise above that typically seen in social media postings (no “how r u?”).
Repeat at least the last three words of any comment you are responding to. This is a technique that shows active listening while writing.
By repeating the last three words of a person’s comments you demonstrate active listening, you are responding in the person’s vernacular, and are able to respond specifically to what the first writer is interested in.
Remember you are providing a written record of your conversation. Write only what is true and what you really mean, but don’t worry so much about legal implications that it impairs your ability to communicate.
If you have done your research and are honest and sincere, just like you would be in a face-to-face meeting, then you should not have to worry about what you put in writing.
Finally, occasionally use the person’s name. They are a person and an employee. Using their name individualizes your conversation and lets them know you can picture their face and hear their voice. They know you are talking to them, a person, as if you are face-to-face.
The day will come where much of our workplace conversations will occur non-face-to-face. We just as well be prepared and start practicing for it now.
In closing this blog on communications, I want to include one last Bible verse. James 1:19 says.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
In communicating with our employees, whether it is in an office or over the computer, we need to put a premium on listening, be considerate in what we say, and not let the conversation control our emptions. Remember, our job is to build up and care for all our employees.