A lot of our personal and professional interaction patterns have been digitized. The emergence of social media has irreversibly changed the way we communicate with each other. Likewise, the modern workplace has seen new tools being introduced, facilitating teamwork and promoting productivity. With all this novel software popping up all around us, it’s easy to neglect soft skills, thinking they don’t apply in the digital world. Well, that’s simply not true but keeping them well-oiled may be the hard part. Let’s see how you can improve in this area.
We’ve grown so accustomed to a variety of social and collaboration apps one can hardly remember the world before them. We now have a wide array of social media for informal communication, as well as tools such as email, project management platforms, and instant messengers for business purposes.
Most of us will simply go down the install, launch, and use route but is there nothing else to be learned here? Are we taking the full advantage of what this social software has to offer?
In this post I’d like to tackle this topic particularly in the context of business instant messaging and live chat which have recently rose in popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic and tons of people worldwide working from home.
My main assumption is this: efficient in-person communication is crucial for successful business. The same rules apply to instant messengers and other forms of text-based communication like email.
Why do you need soft skills for digital communication?
Regardless of the channel you utilize for your business communication, you should strive to maximize its efficiency. I believe there are certain rules to be followed that ensure you’re getting the most out of whichever platform you’re using to engage with team members.
The hard part may be for people to consciously stick to these rules. Some level of training and raising awareness by the managers may be needed to create an efficient communication environment for everybody involved.
Software features are one thing, however, social and interpersonal skills still matter.
Communication patterns become super important if you rely solely on text.
How do you stay efficient using instant messengers for business?
Tips that follow are relevant not only for instant messengers but also email, Jira, or shared Google Docs. Managers involved in heavy use of office chats and such need to remind their team members of these.
In essence, soft skills still relevant in the digital realm include great reading comprehension, the ability to express oneself clearly and concisely, and putting forward a convincing argument (writing, or should I say typing skills).
In order to interact efficiently with the rest of the team online, one has to:
- stay on track / get to the point (clear communication)
- provide all the necessary details (presentation)
- provide supportive arguments when pushing an idea (persuasion)
- be honest but respectful, especially when giving feedback – the choice of words does matter
- provide timely replies
- avoid mental shortcuts
- use numbered lists when covering several issues to structure the information – make sure to address all the points and don’t leave any ideas hanging
- keep the quality of communication high despite multitasking
- actively push for making a decision – don’t always leave the discussion open expecting others to come up with a solution
- stay courteous – say thanks and good job even to the team members you’ve known for a long time, perhaps even particularly to them as to keep the morale high (inspiration, motivation, management)
- apply humor occasionally – don’t keep things too tight and drop a little joke or use emoji when appropriate
Text-based communication is unavoidable in today’s business. When used wisely, it can add great value to any team but at some point, you may have to lay an official groundwork for it.
Individuals with poor soft skills get exposed real fast online and can become a burden. Efficient communication over email or live chat is great, inefficient, however, is a major waste of time, so it’s important to work a little on getting everybody on board with it.
Keep the rules for competent use of language I discussed here in mind and you’ll see your interactions humming in no time.
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