Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life. – Brian Tracy
Communication is a cornerstone of human existence. Without communication, verbal or otherwise, we would not have relationships, education, community or progress, we can’t do without it! This is why the quality of our communication should be considered and looked after. Positive and quality communication is vital to a well-informed life and personal growth. So, when we consider that thought, how does it make us feel about the way we communicate on a daily basis?
Until as little as 100 years ago, almost all human interaction was conducted face to face; straight from the sender’s mouth into the recipient’s ears. Technology has gifted us with multiple and ever developing ways in which to communicate since then, and we now find ourselves in an age where, if we so wished, we could get along without ever speaking to an actual person. Is this decrease in organic human communication a good thing? Or is it not so great?
The Role of Digital Communication at Work
Digital communication in the workplace is not only useful, but it is now pretty much the universal way in which we exchange and retain professional information. Online tools and mediums such as e-mails and cloud storage options allow us to work closely with others at long distance. In fact, the rigidity of e-mails, for example (which, in their infancy retained the formality of an official letter), has loosened in many industries in order to make them more conversational and personal. The speed at which they can be exchanged has bred a culture where e-mail streams are much more conversational. However, can this replace the working relationship that might be grown when regularly communicating face-to-face?
The role of digital communication in the workplace is to exchange information quickly, safely and efficiently. It does this extremely well. However, it works so well that it is often easier than actual human conversation. With e-mail you don’t even have to leave your desk.
Appropriate Use in The Workplace
As we know, e-mail is not the only form of digital/human interaction. There is text messaging, WhatsApp (I imagine you have about 100 groups to juggle, just like me), social media and even the odd phone conversation to add to the arsenal. It is these, less business focussed and more casual forms of digital communication that we need to be careful with. We often use these as shortcuts for conversations that would be more useful, both personally and professionally, if has in person. By using these shortcuts all the time we are beginning to lose our connection with humanity and the rest of the world.
Where Can Its Use Be Curbed?
1. Internal Workplace Communication
I am not saying that you should never WhatsApp at work again, I am just floating the idea that maybe we should be more conscious about when we use it at work. When communicating internally, it is easy to whack an e-mail over to a colleague about an issue, but will this a) be a quality interaction or b) actually solve the issue faster? First of all, no, it will not be a quality interaction in comparison to speaking to the person directly and reading all of the other signals you will get from observing that person. Secondly, information often gets muddled in e-mails, and it can be tricky to work out what you are actually asking of each other. Just pop over to their desk and have a chat, there is much less room for error or tension with this approach.
2. Casual Communication
Our casual communication channels; text, WhatsApp, social media and the like… perhaps these are best left in the ‘casual’ arena of our lives? Of course, if you are communicating with someone in another country, these may be appropriate. But if your colleague is right by the water cooler, just round the corner, then why not go over and actually talk to them for a catch up, instead of texting them from your desk.
3. Streamline Communication with Etiquette and Clarity
E-mail conversations can be tricky. Although there is seemingly little room for misunderstanding, as the information is laid out for you, plain to see, there is also no room for nuance. I have often gone around in circles with a client over e-mail because we can’t seem to understand what each of us needs. There are a few bits of e-mail etiquette that can help to avoid this kind of confusion…
Be Clear. When composing an e-mail, format it clearly and don’t bulk it out with too much chat or miscellaneous conversation (this makes the point of the communication harder to unpack).
Answer Questions. Make sure, if you are replying to an e-mail, that every question posed to you has been answered. They will have been asked for a good reason, so answer them in order to avoid an unnecessary back-and-forth.
Ask Clear Questions. In the same vein, if you need specific questions answered, make sure that they are clear and numbered so that it is easier for your recipient to work through them.
4. No Phone
Do you really need your phone at work? Now there’s a question. Perhaps turning it off at work will be the very thing to encourage you to make your interactions more deliberate, present and personal.
By Chris Thomson
Another important part of workplace communication is listening. Here are a few thoughts on that matter… How to Listen Better
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