In today’s fast-paced and technology-driven world, effective communication is not just a nice-to-have—it is an essential skill as it is the cornerstone of success both personally and professionally. With an ever-growing array of communication channels at our disposal, understanding communication hygiene becomes paramount. It is crucial to navigate the appropriate levels of communication to ensure productivity while preserving the human-to-human connection. In this blog, we will explore the dos and don’ts of communication through text messages, emails, phone calls, and virtual face-to-face interactions, and learn how to escalate or deescalate appropriately to achieve optimal outcomes.
Text Messages and Emails
Text messages and emails have become ubiquitous tools for quick exchanges. However, their efficiency should not come at the cost of clarity and courtesy. To maintain communication hygiene, follow these guidelines:
- Appropriate Content: Text messages are best suited for brief and urgent matters that require immediate attention. Conversely, emails are more appropriate for formal communication, sharing detailed information, or engaging in discussions that do not require an immediate response.
- Brevity and Clarity: In all communications, keep messages concise, ensuring your points are clear and well-structured. Avoid using jargon or ambiguous language that might lead to misunderstandings.
- Professional Tone: Maintain a professional tone and avoid using all caps or excessive exclamation marks, which can be perceived as aggressive.
- Timeliness: Respond to text messages and emails promptly, even if it is just to acknowledge receipt and indicate when you’ll provide a more comprehensive response at a later time.
- Emoticons and Abbreviations: Be selective in using emoticons and abbreviations, as they can be misinterpreted or seem unprofessional in certain contexts.
Phone calls offer the advantage of real-time communication, allowing for a more personal touch. To make the most of phone conversations while respecting boundaries, consider the following:
- Scheduling: Before making a call, check if the other person is available and inform them of the purpose of the call. Unscheduled calls might disrupt their workflow.
- Active Listening: During the conversation, pay close attention to the other person’s words and tone to understand their perspective fully. Avoid interrupting and allow them to express themselves completely.
- Sensitive Topics: If discussing sensitive or emotionally charged matters, ensure you are in a private and uninterrupted environment.
Virtual face-to-face interactions via video conferencing have become the norm, but maintaining human connection in a digital space requires intentional effort. Here is how to excel in this area:
- Video Etiquette: Dress professionally and maintain eye contact with the camera to create a sense of engagement. In a small group video conference, leaving your camera on can demonstrate that you are committed to meaningful participation in the call. However, if you have a reason not to—whether it is due to disability, technical issues, or personal comfort—please feel free to keep your camera off.
- Clear Communication: Be extra mindful to speak slowly and enunciate clearly to ensure your message is understood, particularly when dealing with technical or complex subjects.
- Engage Actively: Aim to encourage active participation from all attendees, making space for questions and discussions to foster a truly collaborative environment.
- Empathy and Respect: Keep in mind that virtual fatigue is a real phenomenon, so be mindful of meeting lengths and take breaks if needed.
Escalation and Deescalation
Knowing when to escalate or deescalate a conversation is vital for preserving relationships and promoting productivity. Here are some approaches:
- Escalation: If an issue is not being resolved through text or email, consider moving to a phone call or video call to address it in real-time. This can prevent misunderstandings and facilitate quicker resolution.
- Deescalation: If a conversation becomes tense or emotions are running high, take a step back. Suggest a break or schedule a follow-up discussion once both parties have had time to cool off. If appropriate, you could invite a neutral third party to the follow-up discussion, but exercise this option judiciously as it can introduce further issues.
Honoring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Communication
While the aforementioned guidelines aim to enhance productivity and human connection, it is important to recognize that communication is not a one-size-fits-all model. We must consider the diverse experiences and needs that shape how people communicate:
- Disabilities: For some people, keeping the camera on may not be feasible due to various types of disabilities or health conditions. Be sensitive to colleagues who may have disabilities that make certain forms of communication challenging. Flexibility is key.
- Bandwidth Issues: Not everyone has access to high-speed internet; for some, keeping the video on can disrupt the quality of the meeting for everyone else. High-speed internet is not universally accessible. Be understanding if someone’s camera is off to save bandwidth.
- Home Environment: Some might be joining from a setting that they are not comfortable showing, whether it is due to privacy concerns, distractions, or otherwise. It is important to acknowledge that not everyone has a conducive home setup for video calls. Let’s respect each other’s choices to keep cameras off when needed.
- Cultural Sensitivity: In some cultures, showing one’s home or private space might not be acceptable or could make individuals uncomfortable. Cultural norms around communication can vary widely. Be mindful of how your communication style may be received by others from different cultural backgrounds.
- Neurodiversity: For some neurodivergent individuals, having the camera on can be a source of stress or distraction that makes it harder to focus on the meeting content. Flexibility and alternatives should be offered when possible.
Remember, the aim is to foster an inclusive environment where everyone feels seen, heard, and respected. Keep these DEI principles in mind when communicating and be willing to adapt and make exceptions to the rules when the situation calls for it.
Mastering communication hygiene is an invaluable skill that enhances productivity, fosters collaboration, and maintains the human element in our interactions. By gaining a deep understanding of the appropriate levels of communication for each different channel and learning the art of when to escalate or deescalate, we can build stronger connections while achieving our goals. Through these practices, let us strive for communication that is not only efficient but also empathetic, respectful, and human-centered. Together, we can create a more harmonious and productive work environment.
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