Repairing Virtual Communication failures
Bill Cottringer

“In a world that is constantly changing, it is to our advantage to learn how to adapt and enjoy something better.” ~Kenneth H. Blanchard.

Live, face-to-face (f2f) communication has always been difficult, unfortunately with miscommunication being the norm. Now that we have quickly transitioned to a largely virtual world, good communication has become even more of a challenge. Below are a few useful tips to improve virtual communication.

1. Use Likeable Words.

Words carry two different sets of meanings: (a) denotative definitions providing a precise meaning to the word according to standard usage and intent, and (b) connotative meanings where we add personal interpretations to expand the meaning of words, way beyond their denotative meanings. Further challenges occur with the differences between what is said or written and what is left out, along with how it is delivered. Miscommunication is the result of any incongruence between what is meant and what is received, related to these two sets of meanings and any large gap between what is being said or not sad, and differences between the “what” and “how” it is said.

Certain qualities of words deliver a likeable perception, which improves open, two-way communication as opposed to implying their opposites, which create an unlikeable tone and shut down communication. Here are the more likeable word qualities that can improve both f2f and virtual communication efforts:

• Equality
• Humility
• Acceptance
• Agreeability
• Empathy
• Honesty
• Spontaneity
• Positivism
• Tentativeness
• Sense of humor
• Freedom
• Politeness

2. Make an Emotional Connection.

Communication that starts off right has a better chance of continuing that way and the way to start off right is to listen and read carefully as to what to try and connect to with the other person. Making a positive emotional connection with another person requires more time than is usually available to get to know another person virtually. Never-the-less, these behaviors can help you get there:

• Active listening to understand
• Ignoring impervious differences
• Asking good questions to learn
• Being open to opposing perspectives
• Using a supportive tone
• Using emotional and social intelligence
• Practicing likeable communication
• Encouraging informality
• Looking for commonalities
• Approaching conflicts assertively.
• Finding a psychologically safe place
• Using humor appropriately

3. Keep it Simple.

We originally invented words to represent real objects that we wanted to show and talk about because we couldn’t carry around things like mountains, trees, oceans, trains or sports stadiums, to do so. but the abstract empty space between the word and object it was supposed to represent has grown so much wider in our virtual world, where too much guessing is involved. So the rule in virtual communication is to respect people’s time and attention spans is keeping communication short and sweet, somewhere in between long wordy e-mails and overly short tweets and texts. Here are a few tips on keeping communication simple, without losing essential details and meaning:

• Say what you mean and mean what you say.
• Practice the 7 C’s: Clear, concise, concrete, correct,
coherent, consideration, and complete.
• Take advantage of the power of threes.
• Pre-announce potential conflicts.
• Discard what is irrelevant.
• Be mindful in the present tense.
• Value silence.
• Watch for mind wandering.
• Be compelling.
• Quickly clarify obvious misunderstanding.
• Keep content brief.
• Know your audience and what they need to know.

Effective communication has become a very real challenge in the new virtual world where co-location social interaction is missing. However, when you use likeable words, take time to make an emotional connection with your audience and work on keeping things as simple as possible, success is right around the next corner.

“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.” ~Tony Robbins.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is retired Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living on the scenic Snoqualmie River and mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair, (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); Thoughts on Happiness; Pearls of Wisdom: A Dog’s Tale (Covenant Books, Inc.) Coming soon: A Cliché a day will keep the Vet Away (Another Dog’s Tale). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (206)-914-1863 or