In a digital space more than ever.
Where we’d have facial expressions and body language when communicating in person, instead we often have just a screen and blinking cursor for digital messages.
A few things to keep in mind to maximize the impact of a message you’re trying to get across digitally:
1. Be clear on your intent
A great set of questions when reviewing your own communications for effectiveness:
- What do I want the recipient to know?
- What do I want the recipient to feel?
- What do I want the recipient to do?
With these as a lens, you’ll likely spot areas of your writing that need improvement.
2. Reflect more than you think necessary about tone
Tone is just as important as content when it comes to how a message is received.
Before hitting send, think about how your message will be read by your audience and, with empathy, how it will make them feel. Read it out loud to yourself. Have someone else read it if it’s extra important.
It’s worth the extra time to get this right.
3. Don’t knock “softeners”
A lot of attention has been placed on verbal “softeners” that women stereotypically use in the workplace. Things like:
- Inserting the word “just” (“I just wanted to check in and see…”)
- Using “we” instead of “I”
- Over-reliance on the word “feel”
- Using qualifiers before making a point (“I’m not an expert, but”)
- Asking “does that make sense?”
- Apologies and “sorry, but”
Most of the things I’ve read on these verbal habits suggest they undermine the authority and impact of the speaker. In some scenarios, I could see this being true. But in digital communications, these can actually be useful linguistic tools for accurately setting tone and influencing how your message is received. Use them wisely.
4. Avoid saying “no”
If you never say “no” to a colleague or client, you’re not long for this world.
But you can absolutely say “no” without using the word no.
When possible… consider ways to get your audience on the same page as you without relying on words like:
People have an instant, semi-conscious negative reaction to these words. When sending an email, give it a quick read and see if you can get your message across without them (Hint: you usually can.)
5. Keep it brief
You can ramble your way to a point verbally and people will usually cut you some slack.
Ramble in written form and people tune out.
Keep it short, or you risk people skimming over the important bits.
6. Remember digital is forever
Assume that any and every email you write could be forwarded (intentionally or not) to the whole world.
Email is not private by any stretch of the imagination. If you need to blow off steam or make a snarky comment to a colleague, do it in a different medium.
7. Use the right medium for the message
If you’re communicating something REALLY IMPORTANT…. don’t do it over email alone. Start with a phone call or a Zoom so you can hear the person’s voice and/or see their face.
8. Leverage written “chasers” for verbal comms
If you do use a voice or video call to help you get your message across, consider whether to send an email to complement that outreach. Giving people a chance to review something in writing is another opportunity to ensure that the message received is the one you intended to transmit.
For example, I usually have performance conversations with my team over a video call, and then follow up via email or Slack to reiterate the feedback I shared. This gives the team member to chew on when they’re digesting our conversation and gives me another opportunity to make sure I got the message right.
For job offers, I usually send a written offer and then follow up with an ask to schedule a call or an email. I do this because I want the candidate be able to think/react to the offer and give them space to prepare a response. (This is the opposite of what negotiation experts would recommend — but I don’t see hiring as a tug of war type of battle where we’re trying to get candidates with the most aggressive offer possible. It’s a collaborative effort to find an employment arrangement we’re both excited about.)
Making digital communication more effective in your business
How do you leverage digital communication to collaborate in your workplace? What traps and barriers do you see people running into? What tips do you have for success?
Let’s hear them in the comments!