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How to Strengthen Communication in Times of Stress

Many of us are working from home and communicating through multiple platforms to work with our team to do our part during this pandemic. Emails, Slack, project management software, social platforms all keep us ‘plugged in’ while we’re staying in. With all of the communication, how can we be sure we are effectively and meaningfully engaging with our teammates? How can we both convey and interpret messages properly?

Without intending to, miscommunication happens more often than not, and oddly, most describe themselves as solid communicators. In many functions of your team, failure to communicate adequately can result in breakdowns in product, production, team synergy, and client satisfaction. In other words, it can cost a company money and momentum when any member of the team isn’t communicating effectively. In times of crisis, this becomes even more important both professionally and personally. 

When considering your communication style, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Relationship proximity (from 6 feet away or more)

  • How well do you know and understand the person you’re communicating with?
  • Do you understand the role you play in the relationship?
  • What’s the history of the relationship?
  • When in doubt, over-communicate and ask for feedback to confirm understanding.

Communication medium 

  • Is this conversation happening remotely through a platform? Example: Task management platforms are very helpful, but without true conversation, many assumptions can be made. Task structure and providing additional context go a long way to inform the other person.
  • Is this conversation happening in person? If it’s face to face (or done through a video call) you’ll need to appreciate the importance of nonverbal communication. If you’re saying one thing, but your face and body are communicating alternatively, you’ll run the risk of being misunderstood. 90% of all communication is non-verbal, so be mindful of your body language. 
  • What’s the nature of the conversation? Professional? Casual? Social? Adjust accordingly. Being present and helpful for a coworker looks different in each of these situations, so be sensitive to where they are at. 

Now that you’ve thought about the basics, here are some tips to strengthen your communication within your workplace: 

1. Be clear.

Millennials, in particular, prefer to be concise - but that doesn’t mean be concise at the expense of understanding and clarity. Being crisp is important, but understanding is paramount. If it takes a more robust sentence or process to accomplish an optimal result, so be it! Plan out your communication. Be intentional. Avoid emails, writing tasks or replies written out of haste.

2. Be personable.

Our team functions fully remotely multiple days per week, and increasingly many businesses are in the same environment. Technology empowers us to execute anywhere at any time. However, it’s best to be face to face whenever you can be. Turning on the camera for meetings to be more inclusive can be a huge step toward personal connection. Being face to face can help team members feel more connected and tonality is less likely to be misinterpreted - everyone has misinterpreted a text or email. Video also allows you to combine verbal and nonverbal communication. In moments of high stress, tonality and non-verbal communication are paramount in helping convey intentions. Be aware that your verbal and nonverbals should be aligned. Say and do the same thing. If you agree, a head nod is appropriate. Especially while many companies are working from home, now is a great time to leverage your video conferencing capabilities to encourage team communication, collaboration, and connection. 

3. Listen.

Communication is a two-way street. Be aware of the role that you play. Acknowledge when it is your turn to speak, but most importantly when it is your turn to listen. People need to be heard, but also feel understood, appreciated and respected. Your ability to share the floor will reduce the likelihood of conflict and may provide insight and understanding that can dramatically improve the relationship, product or process. Keep in mind the considerations listed above, and listen for how you can be present for each person and situation. When things are tense or stressful, knowing how to show up for your people is a powerful thing. 

4. Seek clarity.

Making sure you understand helps gather more information, manage what your doing more effectively, and ultimately build stronger relationships. Asking great questions tells the other person that not only have you been listening, but that you understood what they were saying. 

5. Give.

The golden rule rings true. If there is conflict, address it as you’d like to be addressed. If someone performs a task well, tell that person they did well.  People need praise- professionally and personally. Give people a break! There are times to be sticklers and times to give leniency. Don’t be stingy and help others keep their mental cups full. 

We hope these tips will help you and your team communicate effectively and productively. It goes without saying that we are in a uniquely stressful situation, and our hope is that these will help alleviate some undo stress when communicating with your people. 

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