You’ve been chatting online for months, so you must be a pro by now, right? Perhaps, but there is one blunder you should avoid in order to interact more effectively through virtual channels. And, as a result of the oversight, there are five techniques to improve your overall virtual performance.
Anything new needs more work and careful consideration. Virtual communication is no exception. In general, as you gain experience, you can minimize the amount of brain effort required for a task and shift more of the responsibility to your subconscious. Bicycling, longboarding, and driving are among examples.
They need more thought while you’re first learning them. They become second nature after a while, and you don’t have to worry about utilizing your turn signal or getting into the correct lane to turn left. However, there is one item that can benefit from deliberate consideration, particularly when speaking virtually: the intentions you ascribe to others.
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The Mistake to Avoid
“Attribution errors” are something we all do on a regular basis. When things go wrong, we are more charitable to ourselves than we are to others. When others do something that irritates us, we tend to blame their actions on their personality (“He cut me off in traffic. He is obnoxious and self-centered.”)
When we do something less-than-ideal, on the other hand, we prefer to blame our actions on circumstances (“Oops, I just cut that guy off in traffic. It’s because a construction lane closure unexpectedly appeared!”).
This is significant in virtual communication since we have significantly less nonverbal communication to rely on. We would make attributional errors anyway as humans, but the limits of virtual communication make it more difficult. We are unable to see facial expressions. We can’t hear the tones of people’s voices as clearly, and we can’t see their surroundings as clearly.
All of this makes us more likely to make snap judgments or not give individuals the benefit of the doubt. We believe that if someone is late, they have de-prioritized our meeting, when in reality, they may be experiencing technical difficulties. We presume that if someone doesn’t turn on their camera, they didn’t get up early enough to be camera-ready, but in reality, their new puppy is causing havoc in the background.
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Increasing Virtual Efficiency
So, how can you improve your virtual communication skills while reducing attributional errors?
Allow folks to breathe. Recently, everyone has been coping with more stress than usual, and tensions are generally higher than they would be otherwise. Give everyone a little more leeway. Consider allowing your colleague a few minutes of grace if you’re used to starting meetings on time. If you prefer to have the camera on during meetings all of the time, be willing to have an off-camera meeting every now and again.
Be sympathetic on purpose. It may sound cliche, but putting yourself in the shoes of another person can really help with communication. Consider what your colleague might be thinking (cognitive empathy) or feeling (emotional empathy) in the situation you know they’re in.
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Make an Effort to Be Considerate And Empathic.
Pose inquiries. Of course, knowing what someone is going through makes it simpler to empathize. Solicit information on how your coworker is doing and how they’re holding up. You don’t have to be intrusive, but you should ask enough questions to show that you care and are paying attention. Then pay attention to what they’re saying.
Be patient and understanding. This is a period when people are more likely to make mistakes and fail. Employees reported being especially productive and effective at the start of the pandemic. However, people are increasingly claiming that they are striking brick walls. With mental health difficulties on the rise, as well as stress and worry, it’s only natural that work suffers. Be understanding if coworkers miss a beat or don’t perform to their usual levels. Give them feedback and assistance so they can get back on their feet, and you can rest assured they’ll do the same for you.
Create connections. You’ve heard it said that true character shines through in the face of adversity. This is particularly true in today’s communication. Empathy, kindness, and grace are qualities that will reflect well on you. When situations are typical, according to personality science, we are more inclined to act on our best qualities. However, when we’re stressed, we’re more likely to be “beyond ourselves” and act in ways that aren’t our favorites.
Extroverts may become more reclusive, while coworkers with amazing intuitive accuracy with clients may lose their touch. Recognize that everything is impermanent, and make use of these opportunities to reach out, show compassion, and establish relationships. In terms of sociology, we tend to form some of our greatest bonds during difficult times, so you may make use of these conditions to bring out the best in yourself and others.
We can’t take virtual communication for granted because it’s not easy. We’ll all be relieved to return to more face-to-face communication rather than virtual communication. However, in the meanwhile, be deliberate about how you use virtual channels and communicate as effectively as possible during difficult times—your job may depend on it.