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Bringing the human back to Digital Communication

Written by Ashalia Maharajh

Like a good relationship, all good businesses thrive on strong communication. Any successful business person will tell you that’s because the foundation of business is relationships – with your employees, partners, and vendors, and most importantly with your customers.

Building these relationships through strong, clear communication is what differentiates a business that thrives from a business that fails. In 2020 there are more tools to facilitate communication than ever before and improved market research continues to provide insight into new strategies that really work.

Communcating digitally can be challenging. When we are sending emails, between homeschooling the kids, making lunch and sanitizing our sanitisers – tone may be lost, we forget that we are communicating to another human and connection and communication may suffer. Never before have we used this much tech, we have video calls, voice notes, emails, text, what’s app groups, social media, videos, presentations – and whilst tech is great for sharing information, thoughts and ideas – we must ensure we are truly communicating and not just sending information back and forth.

Many young people especially, whilst well versed in technology - struggle with professional communication. They need even more support and guidance through this time as they do not have someone to ask those day to day questions to, they may feel daunted, afraid or not want to appear unknowing so they continue as they are and lose those valuable learning moments.

Here are our top 5 tips on how you can keep your people and business thriving in communicating with technology.

I love the irony of technology allowing us to make internal communications more human. And that really, in my mind, is one of the primary goals of internal communications, to connect human beings and unite them in being part of something larger.” - Elizabeth Baskin CEO at Tribe, Inc.

1. Its all Personal

Personality has a lot to do with the way we communicate. People usually communicate according to their personality style. Most of the time in a professional setting, we communicate using professional protocol.

However, in times of stress, people tend to become more defensive and this shows up in our communication. In the current time we are facing, we are under prolonged stress. So perhaps there isn’t anything directly causing it this week, but you will see the effects manifest in your teams in their communication.

If you have ever used Insights or a similar personality profiling assessment before, you will know the that Reds may go into defend mode whilst greens may become quiet and not want to engage. At this time, let us use our empathy to ask how others are doing and truly listen. Over email this can be tough as you cannot give a friendly smile or make eye contact to read the person easily. You can check in to see how the person is – truly check in. Hear their response, no need to fix the situation or offer advice – just listen. That’s the power in listening, it ‘holds space’ for the person, giving them a safe space to speak to share their feelings or thoughts (no matter what they are). This creates a strong sense of genuine trust with the individual and moves from a human centred connection as opposed to a purely transactional one.


Don't forget about yourself

Remember this goes for you too. So when you are feeling the pains of stress - you can communicate it. Share your communication style with others so that they understand your position a bit better. Your interns or learners may not always know how to approach you when you are busy meeting deadlines and seemingly unavailable to them, so be sure to communicate how they may best get in touch with you and provide them with clear guidelines. They will appreciate this!

The older staff need support too. Your operational managers are likely older and are dealing with a host of their own personal stress as well as managing others remotely. Our research shows that most young managers will not speak up to share their areas of development to their seniors or HR readily, as they are fearful of jeopardising their perceived positions of authority. Kindly, equip them with the tools they need to communicate effectively. You will be surprised at the difference it makes in connection and performance. You can do this through courses, videos, articles or gentle sharing of knowledge (copy and past points from this article if you need to) - but whatever you do, over communicate these tools rather than assuming they already are comfortable in this area.

2. Smile

Smile over video calls (or even voice calls for that matter). It can be tempting to speak or look away from the camera. What this does, is signal to the brain that the person is not fully engaged. We are social beings after all and respond to others in this way. Look at the camera or lens and smile every now and then to show that you are engaged with those on the call. By smiling and looking at the lens wherever you can, you create a positive connection.

According to Neuro Nation: “Each time you smile your brain feels really happy. Smiling activates the release of feel-good-messengers that work towards fighting stress. These messengers help you experience a whole range of emotions, from happiness to sadness, anger to depression. When a smile flashes across your face; dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released into your bloodstream, making not only your body relax but also work to lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Endorphins are natural painkillers – 100% naturally produced by your own body, without the negative effects of medication. When you smile, people treat you differently. You’re seen as attractive, reliable, relaxed and sincere. Scientists found that seeing an attractive smiling face activates your orbitofrontal cortex, the region in your brain processing sensory rewards. This suggests that when you view a person smiling, you actually feel that you’re being rewarded.”

3. Be inclusive

On team/group video calls be sure to check for understanding. Introverted types, (earth greens or cool blues) may get lost in the conversation a bit and may not speak up. Gently check in with them individually, “Nandi, do you have anything to add?” or “Jon, haven’t heard from you, any thoughts?” It is a good way to help them feel included and provide them with space to share. At the end of a meeting, you can do general check ins with each, so go name by name - this helps everyone feel included and heard if they have a burning question or thought. For larger groups this may prove difficult for some of your managers or yourself, so you can always advise that all questions are welcomed via text or email - the trick to this thought for a power communication move is respond timorously to these so that you encourage this positive form of communication.