Discover more from The Manager’s Prism
Mind Your Digital Language
How to avoid misunderstandings and microaggressions in digital communication
In today's world, where remote work is common and companies are forming more distributed and remote teams, it is more important than ever to communicate effectively with your team. Whether you are a manager or an individual contributor, digital communication is a skill that must be understood and mastered.
You need to learn to speak the language of the digital world.
Nowadays, most of our communication with our teams happens through platforms such as Slack, Teams, or email. Despite the variety of communication channels available, we still engage as if we were speaking in person. However, in these digital channels, the absence of a face creates a significant difference. This hinders effective communication.
It is extremely difficult to understand tone, body language, or expressions without seeing the person. In the absence of these visual cues, the reader's mind overlays its own interpretation of the words read. We tend to read and guess the tone, emotion, and expression of the sender. And this is where the breakdown begins.
To get right to the point, let's come up with a few takeaways on how to ensure that we communicate effectively through digital mediums:
“Rohit:” vs “Hi Rohit” - Prefer to use the second one. A simple “Hi” prefixed before the name sets the right tone. This is a very basic one, however, this is something that catches everyone’s eye. Is the sender of the message “Rohit:” instructing something? Did I do something wrong? Is there a misunderstanding?
Please don’t just say hello in chat - Avoid chat messages that just say “Hi” followed by a big silence waiting for the other party to respond. Practice adding more to your Hi or Hello by adding a sentence explaining the reason for your ping. Consider reading, “No Hello”
“??” - Avoid the message that is just a question mark or worse multiple question marks to ask for an update. Be clear, ask politely and use your words. This will avoid causing any kind of anxiety.
“May I call you?” vs “I am calling you now” - Use the first one. A request is always preferred over a command.
“Do …” vs “Could you please do …?” - Again, ensure that you are requesting and respecting.
Say Thank You more often - A simple thank you goes a long way.
Set the context clearly and don’t assume.
Avoid using all CAPS - Use of all uppercase in a sentence indicates that you are yelling and are not happy. Avoid it in all cases.
Avoid using too many exclamations (!!!!!)
Ensure that you read your message at least twice before sending it.
These are just a few examples. If you are careful (hyperconscious) with your messaging and take a moment to think about the person on the other end you will see a significant improvement in your digital communication.
In her book "The Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection, No Matter the Distance", Erica Dhawan, identifies four key elements of digital body language: responsiveness, clarity, personalization, and empathy. Each of these elements are essential for building trust and connection in digital communication. Her book is a must read.
I hope that this piece has given you something to ponder on. Act now and ensure that you bring empathy to all your words.
Did this post resonate with you? I would love to hear your feedback on this topic. Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts!
The Manager’s Prism is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.