Today’s Fast Summary:
Personal connection builds trust between individuals
When you hide parts of who you are, you experience low self-esteem and job dissatisfaction.
Digital communications can’t replicate in-person connections. Trust is more quickly built in person.
| The Journal That Talks Back
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How To Maintain Personal Connection In A Remote World
The COVID-19 crisis threw the professional world all for a bit of a loop.
Many companies implemented remote work schedules to cope with the pandemic. Remote work remains largely a reality: In 2023, 64% of jobs are done remotely, and many others utilize a hybrid model.
Before 2020, we saw other shifts to online communication: Social platforms are popular, and many of us interact with friends and loved ones virtually, not in person.
However, the remote world makes connecting with one another professionally and personally much more difficult.
I’ve heard others say that technology is ruining human connection, but this is far from the case. Instead, it’s a roadblock in the way of personal connection.
Personal connection builds trust between individuals. When we don’t communicate with others, we experience feelings of isolation. We all need communication to maintain our mental health.
And, when communication increases, trust is soon to follow, and vice versa.
So how can we continue building trust using digital communication?
The following are 8 ways we can adapt our communication techniques to stay connected.
1. Prioritize learning personal information about your peers.
The world’s leading CEOs and coaches emphasize the importance of this. Personal details build trust.
When people hide parts of who they are, they experience low self-esteem and job dissatisfaction.
Ask your peers simple questions about their lives. If you don’t know what to ask them, ask yourself, “What does their life look like outside the workplace?”
Ask them about:
Life changes (marriages, children, moves, etc.)
Simple preferences (food is a popular topic)
2. Don’t skip simple pleasantries.
Pleasantries seem cliche or silly, but they’re not. They’re a powerful way to build rapport.
Before you jump into a meeting’s agenda, take time to check in with your peers and superiors. Use simple phrases like,
“How was your weekend?” and,
“Have a great week!”
These questions and phrases open the door for more meaningful conversations, build structure, and show the other person that you care for them.
3. Ask clarifying questions.
Successful TV and comic book author Amanda Deibert said, “Asking someone to share their experiences, their insight, or their passions with you causes a connection, and often a fondness, that is a powerful foundation for lasting relationships. It has been surprising and lovely the way that people feel close to me just from the questions I've asked.”
Builds emotional intelligence
Contributes to stronger leadership skills
Improves a team’s morale
Leads to better solutions
Strengthens and establishes relationships
Helps you better understand those around you
Asking ‘why’ is acceptable too.
Questions that clarify something or establish a connection build trust. They show the other person you’re invested in what they’re saying, even online.
4. Prioritize synchronous conversations.
Texts and emails are convenient, but they lack a human element.
“Meeting” screen to screen or over the phone establishes a connection that breeds interaction.
Synchronous meetings allow you and other participants to note each other’s body language and tone.
When you’re meeting someone for the first time, call, video chat, or Facetime them to initiate a bond.
5. Stress tone and punctuation.
Online communications, like emails, texts, Slack messages, etc, often sound impersonal and glib.
It’s difficult to glean meaning from a simple, “K,” or, “On it.”
To communicate excitement and personality, use emojis and exaggerated punctuation to convey your message via text and email. Exclamation points are highly effective.
Buzzwords are another effective strategy. The following words are proven effective at garnering emotion.
Use these to communicate enthusiasm, emotion, and excitement in texts and emails.
Always consider the context of your communications. Emojis aren’t always appropriate.
Use these communication tools as you would in person.
6. Explore digital tools’ full potential
Digital tools are ever-evolving.
In the workplace, tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Chanty help maintain positive communications with co-workers.
Other tools like Trello, Notion, and Canva boost creative collaboration and help establish individual tasks.
For personal communications, use group chats, photo sharing, and audio messages to garner meaningful conversation.
7. Always prioritize empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand another’s emotional state and experiences. It’s also a breeding ground for trust.
In the workplace, empathy is paramount. Treat others as people first, and workers second, to establish a positive working environment.
Empathy improves communication, boosts creativity, and enhances company performance.
Check out my previous newsletter on Radical Candor to learn more about empathy in the workplace.
It’s difficult to show empathy through the screen. However, it’s not impossible. Try these simple ways to show your teammates empathy:
Provide co-workers extra time if communicated
Allow flexible deadlines
Ask related questions
Personalize digital communications
Validate their feelings
8. Be proactive
Don’t wait until you feel isolated to put these tips to use. Establish positive communication techniques before boredom and isolation set in.
When someone joins the team, ask to synchronously meet with them. During the meeting, ask questions that showcase your interest in them. Establish rapport before moving into your designated conversation topic.
The remote world is a roadblock, not a dead end.
There are many ways you can boost communications digitally. However, digital communications can’t replicate meaningful, in-person connections.
The best forms of communication are face-to-face. Up to 90% of our communications with others are nonverbal, shown through body language. Trust is more quickly built in person.
Presidents and prime ministers typically have a private plane for a reason; they understand the value of seeing people in person. Most of us can’t access a private jet, but we should still prioritize establishing trust face-to-face.
In the meantime, try these communication hacks to build trust with your peers.
This week, I ask you to consider how you can apply these tips and to reflect on your own experiences with trust in the workplace. Think critically about how you can transform your communications. Consider your past communications and how they might’ve gone differently with these in place. For this exercise, think back to a time when you encountered miscommunication in the virtual workplace.
a. What platform was this miscommunication on, and what was said? Why did you perceive the person’s message as you did?
b. Consider all facets of the miscommunication, including setting and time of day.
c. Think about who else was involved and what was at stake. Was there a miscommunicated deadline or task? Who was implicated in the blunder?
What role did you play in the miscommunication?
a. Were you the communicator or the listener? If you were the communicator, what went wrong in your message? Why wasn’t it effective? If you were the listener, why did your perceptions fail? What specifically caused you to ‘drop the ball?’
Based on what you learned, how can you change the communications to avoid this mistake in the future?
a. How can these digital communications hacks have altered what happened? Would emojis have communicated a lighter tone? Would a synchronous conversation have changed the direction of the communication?
b. Ask yourself, “How can I use these moving forward?” Think realistically. If you’re not an ‘emoji’ person, it would be silly to believe you can begin using them often. Be honest with yourself. Don’t overthink it.
I tried these for myself, and they’ve worked wonders for my communication with my peers. Try them today.
I’d love to hear from you:
● Which of these did you find novel or surprising?
● How can you practically incorporate these tips?
Tweet at me (@_alexbrogan) or respond to this email — I’ll try to respond to everyone.
Have a wonderful, Wednesday all.
Until next time,