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Best Ways to Improve Virtual Communication Skills

Improve Virtual Communication Skills, Can You Hear Me? How to Connect with People in A Virtual World.

Posted: Nov. 4, 2019

We are more connected than ever, communicating online makes us conscious about the things we are super fascinated by doing our work and sharing the content.

In person communication is incredibly rich, loaded with information about the person we’re talking to is feeling at every second of the conversation. It’s satisfying in a way that virtual communication can’t be.

Virtual communication is much flatter – online conversation requires us to deliberately engage our own and other people’s emotions.

Emotional truth is as important in communications as intellectual truth.

Every day, our brains learned to scrub away the less emotional memories to start again, retaining the patterns and memories that seemed the most important – the scariest, closely followed by relevance to food, shelter, sex, and the other essentials.

When humans communicate face to face, we do so with little conscious effort most of the time. Even when the language is a barrier, we can quickly get the gist of the idea through body language, facial expression, and the emotion conveyed.

Without eye contact, we have a hard time talking

Eye contact is thus an important regulator of communication.

And it’s almost entirely missing from the virtual world.

Note: Best practices and cool tips to improve and make an impactful communication that can change your life completely:

  1. Most of our communication is unconscious and based on emotion.
  2. Emotion helps us determine the importance of a communication.
  3. With its lack of emotional content, most virtual communication is overwhelming, boring and forgettable.
  4. We seldom make good decisions virtually.
  5. To succeed in the virtual world, we have to consciously reinsert the emotions that are missing.

How we can fix this? In this powerful, practical blog, it outlines the five big problems with communication in the virtual world –

The Lack of Feedback

There are two kinds of feedback: implicit and explicit.

Implicit: It’s the sensory feedback that our unconscious minds give us 24-7, the sights, sounds, smells, touches, and tastes of our world of experience.

Explicit: Explicit feedback is the running commentary that drives individuals, teams, and organizations to get things done from day to day.

Explicit feedback lacks the unconscious context of human emotional exchange.

The emoji summary

Begin a virtual communication by sending out one of several emoji, or symbols, agreed on in advance by your team, to indicate your emotional state at the start of the communication.

(There’s a reason why emoji and emoticons add back the missing emotional elements. You need to learn to make this practice deliberate and habitual.)

Here are a few of Morgan’s successful tips to offer effective feedback in a virtual world:

Virtual feedback should be appropriate and honest, but it doesn’t need to be cruel. “Leaven clarity with kindness.

Virtual feedback should be specific and focused on the relevant object, performance, or creation and not on the person. "A failed artistic performance doesn’t entitle you to judge the character of the performer. And general comments are far less useful—and far more damaging—than specific ones."

Virtual feedback should never be more about the giver than the recipient. We have all frequently seen where the feedback given "really concerns what the giver knows at some deep level to be the problem with his or her own work. If you’re going to offer feedback, you must have enough security, distance, and impartiality to deliver an opinion that is truly helpful."

The Lack of Empathy

Empathy - the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, what another person is experiencing - is perhaps the most important trait humans demonstrate. It allows us to love, learn, communicate, cooperate and live in a successful society. It doesn't matter what terms from evolutionary biology or psychology we use to define the behavior. What matters is that it makes the world go 'round and allows us to survive.

More about Empathy

The Lack of Control

Learn the new challenges to managing virtual teams and how to overcome them.

In theory, virtual teams give employers the chance to build a dream team without boundaries. For employees, it offers the freedom and flexibility to attain a healthy work-life balance. In practice, things aren’t always so rosy.

The Lack of Emotion

Now picture a worker in a cubicle. Gray walls, gray chair, gray computer. Gray hum of background noise all around. When she picks up the phone, the way in which the voice is processed over that instrument cuts out most of the emotion. That’s why telephone calls and webinars are so boring. No emotion.

Another recent study found that regular face-to-face communication cuts the risk of depression in adults by half. Phone and email don’t have the same effect.

Our unconscious minds need to get together so that they can find the emotional connections they crave. We humans are social beings. We don’t do well when deprived of our fellow humans.

Every communication is two conversations: the verbal one - the content - and the nonverbal one — the body language. Most of us tend to think of the first conversation, the content, as the important one. We worry a lot about what to say when we’re preparing for an important meeting, giving a big speech, or proposing marriage. And yet we rarely give as much thought to the second conversation: the body language.

As research into how the brain works grows in depth and sophistication, we’re coming to understand that what I’m calling the second conversation is more important in some ways than the first one.

Most of us think that we’re relatively rational beings. We get a thought, we decide to act on it, we instruct our bodies to move, and they do. So, for example, we wake up in the morning and think, “I need a cup of coffee.” Our brain then instructs our body to go to the kitchen, prepare the coffee, get the mug out of the kitchen cabinet, and drink ourselves into wakefulness.

But it doesn’t work that way much of the time. We get unconscious impulses for a lot of the important things that drive us: relationships, safety, emotional needs, fears, desires, meeting new people, seeing old friends, and so on. Our bodies immediately start to act on these impulses, and then, a bit later, we form a conscious thought about what we’re doing.

That intent comes from somewhere deep in the brain, beneath where conscious thought originates, in the unconscious mind. And that intent governs a good deal of our supposedly rational lives.

We need to feed that unconscious mind, and we starve it at our peril as employers, as employees, as humans. The virtual world is boring for our unconscious minds. We need face to face.

The Lack of Connection and Commitment

In the virtual world, trust is more fragile. You can’t accomplish the same kind of gut check that leads to a handshake deal in the real world.

We need to learn a new kind of transparent behavior to build virtual engagement. Virtual connections are less satisfying than personal ones.

When you work in the same office with someone five days a week, you naturally build up at least a minimal personal relationship. Trust comes from commitment and credibility.

Social network tools can help but it’s important for authenticity and self-consistency to be real online.

Use them to expand your sphere of competence – become the go-to person in your organization for something that matters to you.

Use online networking to be vulnerable. Most people are well intention and delighted to help when they perceive a sincere need.

Successful online relationships begin face-to-face.

Top tip: the update video

The ideal way to build trust is to mix the real and virtual worlds, but this isn’t always possible. So, create brief (30-60 second) videos that show you doing something in your real locale, connecting with local food, culture or situations in a way that anchors you in your environment. Your whole team should do the same and share the videos regularly – a virtual library of real moments. But remember to keep it short and light.

So carefully consider your goals.

Use leaner, text-based media such as email, chat, and bulletin boards when pushing information in one direction — for instance, when circulating routine information and plans, sharing ideas, and collecting simple data.

Web conferencing and videoconferencing are richer, more interactive tools better suited to complex tasks such as problem-solving and negotiation, which require squaring different ideas and perspectives.

In short, the more complex the task, the closer you should be to in-person communication. And sometimes meeting face-to-face (if possible) is the best option.

Best Techniques for specific channels:

  1. Email and Texting
  2. The Conference Call
  3. The Webinar
  4. The Chat Session
  5. Sales