Communication. It’s tricky. Sometimes what you mean and what you say come out in two totally different ways. Adding to this sticky wicket is technology, distance as a remote worker, and the many opportunities it brings to mangle your communication.
Sometimes you’re in a hurry, sometimes your mood can color the tone of what you’re reading, and sometimes you just don’t fully understand what’s communicated because there’s just something …missing. That missing piece is usually nonverbal, a key component of communication that adds flavor and nuance to the conversation, something email strips away and animated .gif’s can’t replace.
Don’t believe me? Try telling a joke that requires a perfectly timed punchline or any kind of physical comedy in a Slack channel.
If you’re a remote worker, the nonverbal cues and nuance are further removed because you can’t simply stroll into a team mate’s office and ask for clarification.
I hate to break it to you but there isn’t a silver bullet to avoid miscommunication, it’s probably going to happen at some point. Humans are complex creatures and the technology that allows you to work remotely can also be a real thorn in your side when it comes to clarity in communication.
Here are 7 tips for clarifying your communication as a remote worker:
- Be kind to yourself and others. It’s important to believe that the people you work with have your best interests at heart. It’s easy for technology to hide intent and tone, so keep an open mind, especially when you read something that ruffles your feathers.
- Process before opening your mouth. Take the time to think about what you want to say and to understand your thoughts and emotions before you reply. This is especially important in stressful and time-sensitive situations. If you’re agitated, slamming out the first thing that comes to mind in a busy Slack channel or a hastily composed email could be served with a side of regret.
- Just the facts. Communicate the most important points first, this allows others in the conversation to “hear” you. Eliminating unnecessary words or comments will also help other busy team members absorb your message faster, and with fewer misunderstandings.
- The right message for the right medium. If you need to have a sensitive conversation with a team member, email is probably not the right medium. If distance separates you, find a time when you won’t be distracted and have a virtual face to face via video chat.
- Own your stuff. There are two sides to every equation and you are responsible for your 1/2.
- Examine the context. Are you stressed, under pressure, in a silly frame of mind? Emotions color how you process information and how you communicate. Emotions also color the response you get (see tip #1).
- Apologize when it’s warranted. Humans aren’t perfect and sometimes we mess up. Everyone does it. Owning when you’ve made a mistake will help establish trust.
Where and how we work is changing at a rapid pace but keeping up with these changes doesn’t have to be impossible, challenging, or even hard. Keeping an open mind and working just a little harder than we do now to keep our communication clear will help turn your status as a remote worker into a badge of honor.