Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Are you actively listening? Part 2: Online communications

We had a very lively discussion in the blog post, “Are you actively listening?” I appreciated the comments and insights you shared. After I read through your comments I thought it would be helpful to also look at how we can be better at active listening in our online communications. 

Whether communicating with a person face-to-face or online, it’s important to remember that effective communication is two-way communication. This can be hard when we’re using technology because we  see a person’s emotion or response. Kaitlin Duck Sherwood’s, A Beginners Guide to Effective Email summarizes the problems we experience with online communication:

“Email also does not convey emotions nearly as well as face-to-face or even telephone conversations. It lacks vocal inflection, gestures, and a shared environment. Your correspondent may have difficulty telling if you are serious or kidding, happy or sad, frustrated or euphoric. Sarcasm is particularly dangerous to use in email.”

Although Sherwood focuses on email communication, her ideas also apply to texting or other online communications like IM, social media posts, and eLearning. To be better active listeners online we need to be aware of our limitations and acknowledge them. Like I mentioned in the last post, active listening requires practice, practice, and more practice. I found a list of recommendations in the online blog, 17 ways to use Active Listening Techniques in Online Communication. Here are my top five for your consideration:

  • Answer Your Email Quickly – It’s amazing how many emails go unanswered, or are not answered in a timely fashion. You can put a person’s mind to rest by responding quickly and then moving on to your next task.
  • Specify the Response You Want – MindTools article Effective Email, suggests specifying the response you want. This helps  move to the next step more easily.
  • Don’t Pretend to Understand – Ask for clarity if there is confusion in the message.
  • Re-Read Your Email or Online Post Before You Send It –You may already do this, but looking for spelling and grammar errors is essential. Make sure you also clarify sentences that might be misunderstood, and consider what emotion you are writing with. Do you come across short, angry or arrogant?
  • Practice the 24-Hour Rule When Upset – It’s never good to communicate when you’re angry. Those emails are rarely good business or effective communications. Waiting at least 24 hours will save you having to apologize and have to mend fences.


Which tip do you find most helpful and will you put into practice?

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