Communicating in a remote world

31 Jan 22

Communicating in person offers affordances to us that are easily taken for granted. Non-verbal cues give an insight into our intent. Tone of speech adds precision to our words.

In a remote world, the vast majority of communication takes place online and many facets of the way we communicate with one another fall by the wayside.

This opens the door for miscommunication.

#Why is this a problem?

#Miscommunication is worse than no communication

Imagine you're building a house. In the absence of designs, you can't build the house. But if you're presented with the wrong designs, you'll soon be building the wrong house.

Miscommunication leads to incorrect conclusions that at best slow us down in pursuit of our goals. At worst it can prevent us from achieving our goals entirely.

#Effective collaboration is impossible without good communication

Every successful team is built upon effective collaboration and good communication. The two are intimately coupled, so miscommunication impacts our ability to collaborate effectively.

To get the most out of collaboration, all parties need to have mutual trust and respect, and be working toward a shared goal. Miscommunication threatens all three tenets of collaboration.

#Remote miscommunication is amplified

Zoom meetings and Slack channels are often the basis of communication in remote teams. Both can expand the reach of our words far beyond the intended audience.

If we miscommunicate ourselves once, the negative impact can be amplified many times over.

We've all watched in horror as someone is rude to staff in a restaurant. Now imagine that restaurant is a Slack channel and all the customers and staff are your colleagues.

Miscommunication in an open forum can drastically affect how you are perceived in a team.

#How to avoid it

#Slow down

Remote working places greater importance on written, asynchronous forms of communication. Taking time to consider what we say before we say it allows us to communicate more consciously.

Conscious and considered communication provide the opportunity to think about things more deeply — opening the door for richer understanding, and reduce the risk of miscommunication through rushed, reactionary responses.

#Consider how your words are received, not just your intent

Thinking about what we say before we say it is a great start, but the intent of our words are only part of the puzzle. The way our words are received by others can be equally, if not more, important.

Unfortunately there isn't a uniform approach to communication that guarantees our words are received as we intend them.

Every audience is different, so trying to understand how an audience might receive our words before delivering them can pay dividends when it comes to avoiding miscommunication.

#Be kind

Clarity, brevity and precision are powerful tools when it comes to communicating effectively and efficiently, but their edges can be sharp.

Kindness and empathy in the language we choose can go a long way to avoiding misinterpretation and miscommunication of our intent.

Plus, it feels nice to be nice too.