The Five Basic Problems with Virtual Communication: Emotional Clarity
April 21,2020 at 12:06PM UTC
Imagine this. You are at an estate sale. You see a fabulous picture frame with a rather bland picture in it. However, you know the frame is not just great looking and well made, but also valuable. You approach the owner and ask for the price. Sensing your anxiety about the question, the owner who previously thought the frame and picture was worthless, puts a $150 price tag on it. That price is above your budget and you walk away. The frame originally had a $5 price tag on the back. The above story is an example of implicit feedback. Implicit feedback is sensory feedback that our unconscious minds give us all day every day and derive from sights, sounds, smells, touches and tastes from our world experience. On the contrary, Explicit feedback hard coded information that we get. In the virtual world, implicit feedback is practically eliminated as words come over in an email or chat as data. Yet implicit feedback makes up our intuition or gut feeling. When the first email was sent in 1971, the engineers that developed the technology were looking to transmit data - not emotion. The basic technology of email and virtual communication (despite having emojis and memes) has never really caught up to face to face communication. Our virtual communications are fraught with problems due to the lack of emotional clarity. How many times have you misinterpreted a colleagues email message, or spent time ruminating over its meaning? Even with established relationships, we need to take care to build trust and credibility in our virtual relationships and communication. Here are five ways how: 1. Ahead of time, determine the point of the communication and exchange. Be clear about what it is and focused on what you say so you minimize the chance of misinterpretation. 2. Ahead of time also determine what you want to get out of the communication. Is there a specific answer or commitment that you are looking to get? If so, state it upfront. 3. What do you think the other person wants to get out of the communication? The other person may want more than an agenda item (like, reassurance, coaching, insight) so ask! 4. Check to see how you feel at the end of the conversation. Did it feel right for you? 5. Reflect: What can you do differently next time? If you are thinking that it seems like a lot of time and effort needs to be put into virtual communication, you may be correct. All new practices take time to embed before they become habit. Only you can decide whether it is more time consuming to work through the five steps above before and after your communications to ensure understanding and emotional clarity or if you want to spend the time repairing the relationship due to misunderstanding. Tomorrow's topic: Lack of Empathy. *Adapted from Nicholas H. Morgan (2018)-
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