In case you have been cut off from the world for the last two weeks, you know that the Mid-Atlantic region has been doubly socked with snow storms. Everyone has been connecting more than usual via email in an effort to cancel, reschedule, work, delay work, and keep connected. Yes – email is a great way to do all of that, but it falls short in some critical areas. Electronic communication will never be an adequate stand-in and replacement for meeting with someone in-person.
The amount of distance between you and your employees, clients, colleagues, or boss has no relation to how misunderstnadings and conflicts can arise. With so much of how we communicate done through non-verbal behaviors, physical distance often results in an increase in problems that arise from trying to convey our intentions.
A great rule to consider unbreakable under any circumstances is:
Never ever try to resolve a conflict using email.
With no non-verbal cue to clue people in to your intention, the receiver of your communication has to guess what you mean. Amazingly, most of us make negative assumptions, not positive ones. So take the guesswork out of it. As soon as you get a sense that you are being misunderstood, pick up the phone. And if you can’t talk to the person you need to in real time, DON’T leave a message that can be left open to misinterpretation. Make it clear that you need to talk to them and ask for the best time to do so.
- Pay careful attention to the tone of your voice. You want to sound as you intend to.
- Remove distractions and focus on this conversation. If you are doing something else while talking (such as checking your email), they will get the impression that this conversation isn’t that important to you.
- Check to make sure they are hearing your message accurately by asking them. (“Just to be sure, what is the message that you think I’m relaying to you?”)
- Listen to their tone and see if it is hesitant, uncertain, or disbelieving. If it is, they may still have some doubt about your message.
Resolving conflict when you are separated by distance, even if it’s on another floor of the building takes a little more effort and time. But clarifying the message and your intention to insure effective communication saves you much more time in the long run.