As time has goes on we all have become increasingly dependent on technology for a bulk of our communication. Emailing, texting, messaging, and who knows what advances are yet to come. While digital communication has many upsides, such as convenience and speed, it has its fair share of pitfalls too.
Some important components of communication are hard to gauge in writing such as tone, inflection, and of course body language. This means that we have to be even more diligent and purposeful in our digital interactions.
Keep It Professional
While it is easy to fire off a text and throw in a couple cute emojis or send off an email with a quick question, when doing so on the job you should tread carefully and keep it professional. Taking the time to open with a quick and friendly greeting, paying close attention to spelling and grammar, and using appropriate punctuation will go a long way in your written communications and increase the likelihood of being taken seriously as a professional.
When communicating with anyone, it is best to know your audience. Avoiding slang terminology, acronyms, and excessive exclamation marks will help ensure your message is seen as workplace appropriate. While you want your personality to shine through sometimes, it is also recommended that you avoid getting too creative with your background settings, signatures, fonts, and the colors you use.
Keep It Professional
One key to a successful and comfortable work environment for all is to speak and behave in a professional manner. The workplace is not an appropriate setting to ask intrusive & personal questions, tell insensitive or raunchy jokes, or engage in controversial conversations that are outside the scope of why you are there in the first place. When engaging in friendly conversation with fellow staff, always keep it professional. If the conversation steers into a direction that you feel crosses the line, politely acknowledge that perhaps this is not something that you wish to discuss in the workplace. Taking that approach allows you to clarify a boundary while also not putting the other person on the defensive.
Respect Digital Boundaries
The ease of access that technology offers is most certainly one of the biggest perks. That being said, it is of the utmost importance that you respect digital boundaries. Spamming people, inappropriately replying to all, or not using the BCC feature when sending a mass email are common missteps that people make that demonstrate a lack of respect of digital boundaries.
Unsolicited private messages through platforms like Facebook or Twitter are to be avoided. Most people conduct business communications through specific channels, and it is important to respect those boundaries. Unless you have been invited to engage someone through social media or texting on a business issue, it is best that you stick to more traditional communication methods.
Be Clear & Concise
When sending written communication, the best practice is to be clear and concise. Sending lengthy emails may at times be unavoidable, but in most cases, less is more. When sending a text, you want to keep the message within 160 characters to ensure it goes through as an individual message. In email you want to take the time to be clear and concise, and when appropriate make good use of bullets, formatting, and white space.
If there is an intended outcome of the message, for example you are expecting a reply make sure you bring the reader’s attention to that request. You can do this by highlighting the information and request a reply in your opening, or you could use of text formatting (such as making the request in bold) to draw the person in.
Avoid Reading Into Things
As mentioned before, there are a lot of non-verbal cues that are missing from written communication. It is often difficult to interpret things such as tone or sarcasm in writing, which can create unintended conflict or worry. When on the receiving end of an email, be careful to not start reading in between the lines. If you ever find yourself questioning what is being said, or more importantly how it is being said – take the time to ask. By getting clarification you will likely save yourself a ton of worry and frustration.
Digital Is Not Always Best
There are times when it is best to just pick up the phone or go see someone in person. Not only can digital communication come across as impersonal, there are times when the message will be more properly received by hearing tone or seeing body language. In addition, there are some conversations you may have that you do not necessarily want in writing. If ever in doubt about whether technology is the best method for communication, it is best to air on the side of caution and pick up the phone or set up a meeting.