Outside of conference calls, how often do we pick up a telephone and actually speak to people? Nowadays, it’s more common for us to communicate via electronic means, such as email, texting, or chat.
The has the potential to create a number of problems. The quick communications we have today have caused spelling and grammar to degenerate. People are often more comfortable being aggressive or even abusive in their communication when the need for being present is not necessary. The internet is full of chat rooms raging with flame wars for just such a reason.
In some ways this is a generational thing as well. Younger people are much more comfortable with the slang and quick back-and-forth that comes with instant messaging. When they move into the business world and have to work with the older generation it can lead to the perception of one side being rude and the other being quick to take offense.
Since we all have to get along if we’re going to be successful, how can we overcome this barrier? Here’s a quick list of things we all can consider.
Empathy. Put yourself in the shoes of the other person. Try to understand how the words and phrasings might impact the reader. Don’t hit send until you’re comfortable knowing that nothing can be misinterpreted or misunderstood.
Observation. Look for a leader that you know is a good communicator. Try to adopt their approach in dealing with others.
Be Positive. Look for areas we have in common. Avoid negative statements and try to keep what you write positive.
Viewpoint. If there are troublesome areas that need to be addressed, don’t go on the attack but rather communicate calmly and clearly from the standpoint of how the business is impacted. Everyone’s goal should be the success of the business – that’s where we get our paychecks, after all!
Just Stop! Finally, if things are sliding out of control, stop. There’s nothing wrong with walking away from an argument to let things cool down. If an email chain is getting too long or convoluted, stop using email and pick up the phone or walk down the hall and have a real conversation.
We can all get better with communication by simply giving it some thought before hitting send!