Communicate Effectively in Our Virtual World – Part 1

Embrace the Delta

Communicate Effectively in Our Virtual World – Part 1

A little over three years ago the world experienced a transformative shift unlike anything seen before in our lifetime. You know the one… 😊 The Covid Pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders turned our work lives upside down. Zoom became a household name and people around the globe had to adapt to new ways of working. In this 2-part article series, I share my insights on how we all have preferred work styles and communication preferences, and how recognizing and honoring them support a more effective hybrid work. 

In response to the Pandemic, companies quickly enabled enhanced collaboration technology to help us work virtually. But it also created new challenges. We lost the benefits of in-person communication such as rapid responses, and the ability to read body language and tone. All though we can communicate via video, it’s simply not the same as in-person communication. We can’t read body language easily through a computer screen. In addition, we each have ways we prefer to work and ways we prefer to communicate. These ways are hardwired in us and can cause blindspots that make our work (and that of our colleagues) more difficult. Remote work exacerbates these challenges, and it is important to recognize and address these blindspots. 

The way we communicate, and our individual styles and work preferences, affect how we work with others. We bring our whole selves everywhere we go—and work is no different. We show up at work with our whole self: our head, our heart, and our briefcase. Our head is composed of the behavioral and cognitive traits that make up our personality. Our heart is the core values, interests, and passions we possess. Our briefcase is our education, knowledge, and experience. The heart and the briefcase will change as our experiences and knowledge grows; the head, our natural drives and cognitive traits, generally stays the same. Our natural drives influence how we like the world to be and how we tend to “show up”, and that influences how we like to work and our communication style.   

Let’s explore communication preferences and individual work styles and see how that influences our interactions in the workplace. The image below shows some of the typical ways we like to work and communicate: 

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Think about the ways you prefer to work: 

  • Do you prefer to collaborate or work on your own?  
  • Do you live by your list and crave structure? Or do you prefer messy brainstorming?  
  • How do you prefer to communicate? Do you talk it out or do you think things through?  
  • In meetings do you have a focused agenda, or do you prefer to see where the conversation goes?   

You might flex between styles but it’s likely that some of these tendencies are more dominant in your particular preference. The same applies to your colleagues, though they may flex between styles, they have preferences that are innate.  

When you recognize your preferences and those of your colleagues you begin to understand why you (and others) work in particular ways. Here are some examples: 

  • Your colleagues who tend to be quieter in meetings may do so because they prefer to ”think it through” and haven’t had time to really think and prepare an answer. The person who likes to think it through can get lost in an online meeting, especially with many people in the meeting. They could either intentionally get lost because they prefer not to communicate in that setting, or they just accidentally get lost because they tend to be quieter, so they may not contribute.  
  • Colleagues with the tight meeting agenda may seem inflexible to someone who prefers to go with the flow, but they may simply be attempting to keep the meeting on track. They want to know, “What’s the point? Why are we here? How are we going to get through this agenda and make sure these topics are covered.” You however may prefer loose objectives, “We’re here to talk about X-Y-Z. But if we decide to pivot the conversation to something else, that’s okay with me because we can just set up another time.” 
  • Some colleagues might like to work in a way that’s very systematic, whereas others prefer a less structured approach. They really want to be crisp and clear about what it is that you’re setting up to do and how you’re going to go about doing that, versus preferring a space to come in and out of ideas and tasks in creative ways that elicit messy brainstorming. 

Opposites attract? Well, differing styles can be complimentary by balancing out our natural blindspots. A room full of messy brainstorming creatives might never get to a solution without a structured time and agenda keeper. A room full of agenda keepers might miss critical ways to find a creative solution. 

So how can we harness the power of our differing styles and preferences and watch out for our blindspots? Like most things, it begins with good communication. And that is true whether you’re in a virtual setting or you’re in person. 

In Part 2 of this article series, I’ll share some ways to tap into strong communication practices to make the most of others’ styles while recognizing your own. 

This article was originally published by Adrienne Guerrero on LinkedIn.

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