“Every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us,” writes philosopher Alain de Botton. “And we will (without any malice) do the same to them.” Yes, undeniably that’s us, the human beings. But dear communication warriors, we are not only here in the digital world rather we have taken a giant leap in the metaverse, already. And we just cannot carry ourselves as emotional communicators, conducing miscommunication. We have this, the most powerful weapon of all time, The Digital Communication itself.
Sio Bibble, the outspoken governor of Naboo from Star Wars says- “A communications disruption could mean only one thing. Invasion.” Effective digital communication depends on our ability to talk about emotions without being a pinch emotional. We often react to one another based on our social media posts; we never bother to look at them more carefully.
We overestimate how easy it is for someone to figure out exactly what we’re trying to communicate. To show this, in 1990 psychologist Elizabeth Newton conducted an experiment with a simple game, in which she assigned people to one of two roles: “tapper” or “listener.” Each tapper was asked to pick a well-known song, such as “Happy Birthday, Baa Baa Black Sheep” and tap out the rhythm on a table. They were then asked to guess what percentage of listeners would be able to guess the song they had tapped. The tappers estimated that on average 50 percent of the listeners would guess the song they were listening to. Participants who listened to their tapping could only guess 2.5 percent of the songs. The three hits in 120 tries that the listeners correctly guessed, was outside the entire range of the tappers’ estimates. The results of Newton’s study illustrate how bad we humans are at predicting what is going on in another’s head and understanding how others interpret our intentions when we know something that they do not.
In the business communication world, managers and employees, marketers and customers, corporate headquarters, and the front line, all rely on ongoing communication but suffer from enormous information imbalances, just like the tappers and listeners.
Let alone in the business, in digital communication, similar disconnects happen when we write to communicate. “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place,” writes Geroge Bernard Shaw.
Digital miscommunication happens because we don’t have access to the non-verbal cues, including tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions, that give you valuable emotional context when you’re discussing in person. So, comes the question, how can we prevent them? Here are some DOs and DONTs to prevent digital miscommunication at work.
Use emoticons please & make them look normal- These tiny little expression bubbles can help us express tone, meaning, and emotional cues. An outpouring of emojis, especially when you don’t know the other person well, can undermine your professionalism. As a rule of thumb, one emoji per email or WhatsApp message is appropriate, unless it’s the very first time you’re communicating with this person, in which case, it’s better to leave them out.
Avoid making typos- that’s an error 404 – Yes typos reveal that we were in a rush or heightened emotional state when we hit send (or that we’re the boss, and don’t need to care about typos). It’s best to spend two extra minutes proofreading your work, or better yet, read it out loud to catch any typos your eyes quickly skip over when reading it in your head.
Please re-read before hitting the send button- Always re-read what you’ve written before hitting send to make sure your message is clear and conveys the intended tone. It’s easy for one-line emails or WhatsApp messages to be perceived as passive-aggressive in tone.
Punctuation marks matter more than you being punctual- Don’t try to be a punk “bro”, ignoring punctuations. Adding a period adds finality to your statement and heightens the negative emotion. As you get to know someone, pay attention to their punctuation style. You may find there are people you work with who always add periods after the word okay, and so you can stop over analyzing their punctuation.
Use WhatsApp over messenger- We’re most likely to interpret ambiguity as negative when we’re texting or emailing with people we don’t know well or with more senior colleagues.
Leave the “To:” field blank until you’re ready to hit send- Don’t panic: If an email makes you enraged, anxious, or euphoric, wait until the next morning to write back. When you do reply, re-read your draft through the other person’s eyes.
Answer empathetically to your potential customer’s Facebook comments- Make sure you play a good role while replying to any comment. Try to get into their shoes and try understanding their reason or needs.
Excess Communication- One of the leading causes of digital miscommunication in business can be attributed to excess communication. When information is sent in multiple messages over a long period, or important information is buried in a long message, the key takeaways can be easily missed. This can result in miscommunication later in the process, which can have a disastrous effect on a product or service.
Use words to sketch mental pictures- Finding the right balance between communicating and excess communicating can be tough. But, effective communication is all we need at this time a relentless wave of the information age. Use words to sketch mental pictures, convey ideas and tell stories. That’s why it’s important to choose words that will help people understand what you’re trying to say rather than words that are confusing or distracting. To get your point across, consider replacing jargon, idioms, and obscure metaphors with short, commonly used words and direct explanations.
“If there was more attention paid to clear writing and communication,” says famous psychologist and author of The Language Instincts, Steven Pinker, “we could improve the efficiency of the business, education, government — and the frustrations of everyday life.”
Ultimately, clarifying your message to others can help you be happier and more successful in life and at work, especially when you consider the alternative: miscommunication.
-Written By GIASH SHAHEEN
Rebellious Advertising Professional