How to communicate effectively – especially now

by Kelsie Brunson, Director of Business Operations at Viscosity North America

 

We are almost half way through 2020, and I think it’s safe to say that if you had asked anyone in January what we were looking forward to, being self-quarantined inside our homes for weeks on end would not have been on your professional list. No, we all probably had items like earning a promotion, moving into a management role, a new job or even championing a new project for your company. 

While things are starting to open up slowly in some states, we are looking at a new normal for life, with some companies even opting to a permanent work from home (WFH) dynamic moving forward; meaning less face time to communicate with our teams, especially our upper management. What does this mean for you? It was already hard enough to communicate with peers and our management when we were in person, now we have to do it remotely!?

How do we make that good impression and stay at the top of our bosses radar? It requires a different mindset, but is still entirely possible!

 

One thing we have to first stop and think about, is that 93% of our communication is nonverbal. That means that many of the tools we typically have for conveying information to other’s have been limited. Things like our body language, gestures, facial expressions, vocal qualities, clothing/appearance and our use of space. How do we overcome that obstacle? 

 

Well, it may be easier than you think. For example, does your company have regular team meetings or customer facing calls? Use this to your advantage! When we are at home, if you’re anything like me, you tend to not get dressed as you normally would for work or do your typical morning grooming routine. We have to move away from this mindset, put on your professional clothes (at least on the top) , and do your hair/face! Then turn on your camera for those meetings, even when it isn’t required, it shows an extra effort and level of confidence on your part that would not go unnoticed by your boss or colleagues. 

 

Putting your face on screen gives you an advantage in these meetings to show that you are motivated, taking this work from home situation seriously, and thus that your boss should take note of the work you are doing! 

 

When you are on that screen though, pay attention to your body language! How are you sitting? Are you slouching in your seat? This can have the perception that you are either disinterested in the call or that you lack confidence. Both are things that we never want to evoke to our team or customers. Instead, sit up straight and stay focused on the screen (and thus the perception of the conversation). One other thing to note, If you have multiple monitors, you do not want to be seen staring or working on another screen, and giving the look that you are not committed to the conversation.

 

Let’s say that you are not in a position to take conference calls with a camera, how do we ensure that we are taking initiative and keeping our efforts at the forefront of a conversation? 

 

Speak up!  If you get on a call and you don’t speak up, how will anyone know that you are there? Especially when we are all at home, we have to be engaged on calls:

  • Say hello to everyone when you join the call
  • Provide input for the topic at hand
  • Have an idea? Share it with the team
  • Make sure to say thanks to everyone on the call when it ends

 

So we are engaging in our conversations with team mates, management, and customers, now what? When talking, whether on the phone, in email, on your company’s instant messaging channel or text we have to watch our tone. It is all about tone – the mood that you verbally or non-verbally create. There are three tones that are standard in our daily usage.

Aggressive – pushy, brash, abrupt, bully

  • Cares little about the feelings of others
  • Wants to win at all costs

Passive – lack of action & energy

  • Rarely speaks, appears disinterested, uninvolved
  • “I lack self-confidence and don’t care enough to believe my ideas are good.”

Assertive– direct, yet tactful **THE WINNING TONE!!!**

  • Middle ground between aggressive and passive
  • Know when to talk, stay quiet, how to give opinions in a courteous manner

 

It is important to remember that when working remote we communicate a great deal through online platforms. Working remotely requires you to overcommunicate. Tell everyone who needs to know about your schedule and availability often. When you finish a project or important task, say so. Overcommunicating doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write a five-paragraph essay to explain your every move, but it does mean repeating yourself. For example; Joke about how you must have mentioned your upcoming vacation six times already, then mention it again.

  • Always take into consideration the tone of the things that you are saying to others in message and how that could be conveyed.
  • While we are all working remote full time – you must be positive, to the point where it may feel like you’re being overly positive

 

While we are doing all this talking, it is also important to remember that everyone else we are working with will need to be over communicating as well. If we don’t stop to listen to what they have to say, we can’t continue to be effective in our teams and provide a positive influence that goes noticed by our bosses or management.

  • Hearing: an automatic reaction of senses and nervous system to sound
  • Listening: the process of understanding what was said

You may be thinking to yourself, I know the difference between hearing and listening, why are you telling me this? One of the most simple downfalls we have in a work environment, is the belief that we can multi-task effectively. This is an illusion of our brains, as we only take in 25% of what we hear the first time.

Our bodies are capable of speaking at 120 to 180 words a minute BUT, we can listen 400 to sometimes as much as 800 words per minute. Our brains can process words more quickly than they are delivered, in what is called a “rate gap”. Knowing about this rate gap is half the battle for understanding what is needed by your manager for your team, allowing you to step up!

When on a phone call or in a meeting, go the extra mile to stay focused on the conversation at hand. When we think we have the conversation under control, we tend to let our minds wonder, and by the time we focus back in, there is a chance an important detail could have been missed. Instead, use the extra processing power your brain has to be utilized toward the conversation by taking notes, analyzing the message, and providing your ideas/feedback. 

While we continue to adjust to what our “new normal” is every day, one thing is certain, we can still make that good impression on our work environment and keep striving for our goals by communicating effectively!

"One thing we have to first stop and think about, is that 93% of our communication is nonverbal."

"Putting your face on screen gives you an advantage in these meetings to show that you are motivated, taking this work from home situation seriously, and thus that your boss should take note of the work you are doing!"

"Speak up! If you get on a call and you don’t speak up, how will anyone know that you are there?"

About the author:

Kelsie Brunsom

Kelsie Brunsom

Director, Business Operations

Kelsie Brunson has a bachelor’s degree in Communication and a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in Communication, both from Texas A&M University. She taught and built curriculum for workplace professional communication techniques for 3 years before coming to Viscosity. Kelsie presented this session to a standing room only crowd at Collaborate 2019, one of the largest Oracle User Group Conferences in the United States.