5 Tips on How to Prevent Communication Breakdown

We lose the benefit of cues such as body language and tone of voice when our face-to-face encounters are increasingly substituted by online communications from email to social media. It's easy to misinterpret the message of an email or the tone intended for a social media update without this additional information. We've all been in that situation. You check your email and see something that makes you think that something just doesn’t make any sense or you read a passive hostile social media update that you automatically assume is intended for you. Although there is no alternative for the power of face-to-face communication, there are five things you can do to strengthen your online communications and avoid a communications breakdown.

Know who you are talking to

As you sit down to write your email, quickly check in and connect with the person to whom it will be sent. The way you deliver information to your colleague and the CEO will be very different. The more busy the person is, the shorter your email should be. As soon as feasible, outline what you're going to write about and explain what's in it for them. The clearer you can be, the less likely it is that people will overlook details or deviate from your genuine intent.

Check your tone of voice

Because tone is generally absent in online communication, it is one of the most difficult areas to master. Focus on your word choice and the intricacies of what you're saying instead of using emoticons to describe your tone. Reread your email and, if necessary, use emotional words to convey your message. When you say you're glad, challenged, or bewildered, it's clear what you're thinking.

Be sure and clear with instructions

Take the time in your email to recap where you are so your conversation is in context, and then outline future steps at the end. Email is a fantastic tool for managing tasks, providing updates, and more, but it's tempting to assume that everyone is "on the same page." That manner, any problems or disconnects can be rapidly discovered and resolved.

Keep calm and breath before replying

Every now and then, a message, email, or text will irritate you or, worse, make you angry. Take a pause and take a step back instead of rushing to respond. Return to it later to determine how to reply in a calm and sensible manner. You might find it beneficial to reframe the situation and consider it from the sender's perspective. What should have been a straightforward request may have been inadequately expressed. Consider the sender and whether they intended to offend you, and you'll quickly see that you're reading too much into the email.

Schedule a phone call or video conference

Instead of continuing to try to work things out via email, pick up the phone or schedule some Facetime when online discussions start to go off the tracks. Instead of hiding behind the screen, use Skype or even a good old-fashioned coffee date to save time and energy. A 5-minute talk may usually avoid hours of back-and-forth as everyone tries to convey their point of view or be heard. Giving your online communications more thought and care can help you save time, energy, and avoid damaged feelings in the long term.

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