How to Improve Your Online Communication
Social distancing has many of us communicating through online means - whether that be text or video chat. While in isolation, I’m sure most of us have been texting or emailing more than normal. It helps us stay in touch and feel connected in a currently very disconnected world.
And while this is inevitably important, online written communication can create some confusion. It’s hard to decipher tone or meaning from a few written words. And sometimes, we can quickly take things the wrong way.
You read a text. Maybe you’re not in the best mood. Your first thought is that they are being too aggressive or they just don’t care. It’s easy to do.
But here’s the kicker… you could be 100% wrong on your interpretation. Not only that, you could also come off in a not-so-great light via texts or emails if you’re not careful. Without visual cues, communication can get slightly problematic.
So amidst the time of social distancing, what can you do better? What online communication mistakes are you making?
First Question: Are You Assuming or Judging?
The biggest communication trap we all tend to succumb to? Assuming or judging. Hey, none of us are perfect! But still, we can strive to do better and be better.
When you read a text or email and notice your stress levels start to rise, think for a moment. Are you letting your thoughts get the best of you? Are you assuming they are saying this in a mean tone? Are you judging them without knowing the full story?
Here’s a trick…
If you automatically think the text is negative, try saying it out loud in a positive and cheerful voice - or at the very least, say it in your head. Sometimes, this is all you need to flip your perspective. It opens the doors to the fact that they could have meant it in a positive tone.
The other side of the coin is judgement. If there is potentially a side to a story you don’t know, don’t judge. In fact, quit judging people altogether. If you don’t run in their shoes, you don’t know their story or how they are feeling. You can’t possibly judge.
Most of the time, we communicate to be understood or helped - not judged. In reality, judgement is the last thing anyone is looking for. Reel that judgement card back and save it for your own values and beliefs - not someone else’s (trust us - this will save you so many headaches in the future!).
Related Article: How to Stay Social in the Age of Social Distancing
Tips & Tricks to Better Online Communication
Alright, so assuming and judgements aside, what else can you do?
Here are some straightforward and easy-to-implement tips you can start using today!
1. Be clear and concise.
Do you need to ask something? Ask it. Don’t beat around the bush. This doesn’t help you or the other person receiving the message. It just makes for a confusing mish-mash of messages back and forth.
It can also help to break up long paragraphs into separate blocks. This actually makes it much easier for the receiver to read through it.
In contrast, if you’re being asked a question, also answer in a clear and concise manner. Provide thorough answers, especially in business situations. Think back to the 5 W’s - who, what, why, when, where. And answer each of ‘em. It’ll save you and the other person the hassle of, again, going back and forth.
2. Make sure you read the message.
Are you not-the-best listener in person? This might also translate over into online and written communication. Always ensure you read the message thoroughly before answering. Make sure you understand what is being communicated.
And if you don’t understand, ask questions. Clarity is always the way to go - never aim to start an argument. This, again, doesn’t help anyone.
3. Use proper capitalization and grammar.
The wrong verb can do a 180 on your intended message, which is why it’s important to read over your emails or texts before pressing send. Taking this a step further; avoid using all caps. This comes off like you’re screaming or yelling at the other person, which let’s be honest, no one likes.
4. Steer clear of sarcasm.
Sarcasm doesn’t exactly come off the same way in text as it does in person. We’ve all been there - where you’re questioning if the person was being sarcastic or not and you’re generally just left slightly confused and put off.
The simple solution? Just don’t use it! These jokes don’t play off the same way they do in person. You may even end up accidentally insulting others by using it (not cool!).
5. Match the length.
This is a common text etiquette. If someone takes the time to write a heartfelt message, don’t respond with a simple ‘k.’ Send a thoughtful one back - or at least something longer than one word.
6. In texts, go nuts with emojis!
We’re serious. If you’re just texting back and forth with friends or family, an emoji can help convey your feelings and get your message across.
On the other hand, avoid these in business. A professional tone does not include conveying emotions. Usually, these emails or texts should strictly stick to the issue at hand.
The Bottom Line: Just Be Kind!
We all need a little more positivity in our lives today. Be nice to one another. Be the bigger person if you don’t receive nice messages back.
And if you’re hands are full, always remember voice notes are great too! Technology has come a long way in the last decade. If you’re unsure how to write a message to a friend or family member, record yourself and hit send. They won’t have to decipher your tone and it’s always nice to hear a familiar voice (especially right now!).