Tuning in to Your Team’s Communication Preferences

For many of us, the days of bumping into colleagues in your workplace’s hallway or break room feel like a lifetime ago. These organic interactions either replaced by more formal communications or not replaced at all. Emails, Slack, Discord, and even texts… while statistics aren’t easy to quantify, the majority of workplace communication in the modern world is in writing. Written messages allow for asynchronous communication, and a (digital) paper trail to refer back to for reminders. But how often have you felt overwhelmed by the glut of written messages in so many different formats that you don’t even know where to look for a piece of information? How many times have you just wanted to delete everything and start from scratch? If so, this might be because written messages isn’t your preferred communication style. And if it isn’t yours, I wonder if that might be true for other people on your team too?

Even for those of us who are back to working in-person – or never had the option to work remotely – we have developed our own personal rules about how we communicate, and how we like to be communicated with, but what fits you might not fit those you communicate with, and what fits them might not fit you. Just as we each have unique strengths and unique personal experiences, we each have our own communication preferences. For some, we like everything in writing. But for many of us, a face-to-face conversation (even over Zoom) makes all the difference. And believe it or not, there are people who prefer to talk on the phone, and will pick up if you call them! Some prefer to have conversations scheduled, while others are happy with a more informal check-in.

What might you want to consider about communication styles this week?

This Week’s Tips:

  1. Take a few minutes to reflect on your personal rules for communication. What’s your default method for work communication? Does that vary depending on the content and what you want to say? Is it mostly written, or do you like speaking by phone/web conference/in person?
  2. Take twenty minutes to consider the communication preferences of those you are in touch with most (team members, colleagues, vendors etc.). Do they tend to call you rather than email? Again, does that vary depending on what they want to say? If you don’t know, consider asking them “What are your preferred methods of communication?”
  3. Think about how others like to be communicated with when reaching out to them. If they’d prefer a quick phone call to an email, try that! If they would rather have something in their email inbox than a message that might get lost in Slack, try that!
  4. Try breaking your own rules and switching it up this week. If you’re an exclusive emailer, try making one phone call each day. If you like being able to see people on web conference, try chatting in Discord instead. See how the change feels, and notice if it changes anything in how people respond.

Try this out this week, and let us know how it goes in our Facebook group! We’d love to hear from you.

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Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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