4 Fundamentals To Keep In Mind When Communicating Virtually

Whether it’s email, business meetings, or online training, communicating virtually has fast become the instrument of choice for the working world. In fact, since 2005, remote workers who depend on this means of communication for their job grew by 103% and a staggering 68% of millennials said the option to work virtually would greatly increase their interest in a potential employer.

But what we often learn in communication-based workshops and seminars doesn’t always apply in the virtual setting. Depending on the medium, essential elements such as facial expressions or vocal intonations – which make up more than 65% of a given message –  are not always understood.

In order to create effective dialogue, be sure to keep these 4 fundamentals in mind when communicating within the virtual space:

  1. Leave Judgments At The Door. As Joseph Grenny, co-author of Crucial Conversations, explains, “Many people make mistakes in giving feedback by mixing their judgments or conclusions with facts.” This cannot be further stressed when communicating virtually. Perhaps it’s the recent Facebook post that was meant to be taken sarcastically or the unintentional cap locks that were left on – conclusions can run rampant without first separating judgments from facts
  1. Accentuate Your Words. When all you have to communicate with is your voice or written word, be sure to take advantage of every means of expression within that framework. For example, if you have just your voice, communication expert Nick Morgan encourages to, “pour into your voice as much as you can what’s missing from all that body language that otherwise people would get.” Or say if it’s just written text, learn when to use exclamation marks, italics, or underlining to get the right emotion across.
  1. Don’t Forget To Build Trust. Because trust is usually built by subtle informal interactions between individuals, the lack thereof with virtual communication needs to be addressed. Emphasizing this point with virtual teams, Kathy Wellings, Director of The London School of International Communication, shares, “Make sure you allow time for the team to get to know a little more about each other’s personal lives and factor in a few minutes small talk at the start of meetings…” Whether it be lighthearted office politics or discussing the latest sports game, be sure to build trust with each of your virtual contacts.
  1. Make It Visual. John Medina, molecular biologist and author of Brain Rules, cites, “Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%.” In a world of text-heavy emails and bullet point webinars, we seem to be defeating the very purpose of communicating. And to make matters worse, virtual communication can be the worst for sensory enrichment. Next time you hit send on that message, ask yourself if a picture, screenshot, or video might do the trick.

With the rise of globalization, conversations that were once held in-person will be done over virtual mediums that do not convey the same level of expressiveness or emotion. While this technology is vital to our businesses, we must now make extra efforts to convey our true opinions. We must be sure we are truly understood.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.

Author: Kelly Andrews

Kelly Andrews is part of the Development and Delivery team at VitalSmarts – makers of New York Times Bestseller Crucial Conversations. With a keen interest to empower behavioral change, he researches and writes on topics related to communication, eLearning, organizational change, and human resource management. Connect with and follow Kelly on LinkedIn here.

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