The Way We Communicate
In part one, I gave a blue-collar perspective on how the way we work is changing due to Coronavirus; fittingly, the way we communicate is the topic of part two.
Communication has always been a vital element to the way we connect with each other, share information, and nurture relationships.
Arguably, it’s the most important tool we have at our disposal.
Social distancing and self-isolation have forced us to embrace one of our most primal skills. Verbal or not, communication is:
- How we grow as individuals and as a society
- How ideas are cultivated and knowledge spreads
- How we keep others as well as ourselves from feeling alone and forgotten
That said, it’s strange that communicating with one another, despite being so easy in the digital age, is one of our weakest abilities as humans—miscommunication is ever-present throughout the hierarchy.
That said, there’s nothing like a global pandemic to highlight our strengths and drive us towards fixing our flaws.
There’s no avoiding that uncomfortable conversation with your wife; employees lose confidence without clear and concise leadership; and consumers stop trusting brands with inconsistent or tone-deaf messaging.
In other words, life in quarantine means facing your problems head-on, while finding resolution comes from consistently honest communication.
That might require getting a little creative at times [insert technology here].
No doubt, sectors of the tech industry have been hit hard, but other areas are booming with the demand for social community and workplace collaboration on the rise—technology is helping us overcome the barriers we face and the distances we’re spaced.
We’re learning how to host online meetings, arrange virtual events, and we’re accepting that digital pints and game nights are here to stay. For now, at least.
As we move forward into the new abnormal, openly communicating with each other is how our relationships, personally and professionally, will survive and thrive. Not that this is anything new, but more and more of us are staying woke or have been woken to the facts.
Text messages and emails continue to play their part, while forms of communication injected with emotion are edging ahead—voice messages and video chats are becoming the norm, and the meaning of an old-fashioned phone call shouldn’t be undervalued or overlooked.
It all boils down to being human, showing empathy and putting yourself in the shoes of others. It’s about learning to understand and connect, and that beating around the bush does little good.
Especially when it comes to the important stuff.
“Three Ways I’m Communicating Differently”
I consider myself a strong communicator (more so in writing), but the current environment is showing me where I lack.
Verbalizing my feelings, my fears, and my frustrations has always been a struggle of mine; instead, I internalize them all and fight the battle alone.
Those who know me best will likely tell you I’m not a chatty person—I’ve never been one to talk your ear off, I can be soft-spoken at times, and I like to keep my phone calls short and sweet.
I prefer to avoid conflict, and my internal dialogue can quickly turn very cynical and very destructive.
But as mentioned earlier, we can’t quarantine our weaknesses, so I’m obligated to address these faults. I’m happy to report that progress is being made.
Here are the three ways I’m noticing how my communication is changing:
- Being more open and honest with my partner, employer, and clients
- Speaking candidly with myself and having more awareness of negative self-talk
- Placing the emphasis on active listening during conversations with friends and family
Being more open and honest
If you ask my better half, she’ll agree that communicating openly and honestly is an area of our relationship that needs improvement—I suspect ours isn’t the only one.
On my end, it means listening and paying closer attention to how she feels while being more truthful about my emotions and the way I feel—even if that means disagreeing with each other at times.
Those conversations suck and they’re uncomfortable, but I’m learning if I don’t get things off my chest, they build up and create resentment.
Which is an ugly emotion, don’t you think?
Before the crisis, there were outlets to dampen the unease: a demanding game of squash or a beer at a buddy’s place. Not anymore—I can’t escape discomfort, so I might as well embrace it.
Meaningful relationships take work with give and take on both sides. There are always challenges, worldwide or within your own four walls, and without an open and honest approach to communication, you’re only making things harder.
Not to mention, when you alter your behaviour with the ones closest to you, the results have a domino effect on the rest of your life.
Seeing the positive outcome compels you to improve all the other relationships you’ve formed—with your boss, your audience, and your clients.
Keeping the inner dialogue positive
I am my own worst critic.
Ask any entrepreneur, freelancer, or small business owner to list their leading struggles, and I’m 110% certain self-confidence lands within the top three—imposture syndrome haunts me daily, and if I’m not careful, it cripples my motivation and pumps the brakes on productivity.
But due to the pandemic, I’m forced to address the core of the issue.
My former boss claimed his fear of failure was the driving force behind creating a seven-figure small business in a highly competitive industry.
As I work towards becoming an established freelance copywriter and content marketer, I’m getting a glimpse behind the curtain:
- The inner dialogue never wavered—for over 20 years he held onto a blind belief in himself and his mission
- Imposture syndrome was ignored—he blatantly snubbed self-doubt and didn’t waste time second-guessing a decision once it was made
- Leadership is handed out—he invested in his strengths, relied on his intuition, and shored up his weakness by empowering others
It all adds up to confidence.
Having faith in yourself and your abilities; trusting in your friends and family, your employer, and your employees.
Define it however you like, but confidence is a key contributor to success in every aspect of your life.
So, during these uncertain times (that’s right, I used the cliché), pay closer attention to your inner dialogue—stop negative self-talk before it starts or accept it for what it is and move on.
Practicing active listening
Around the middle of March, at the beginning of Ontario’s state of emergency, my sister called just to check in.
Something she said stuck with me.
“Texts and messages on Facebook aren’t going to cut it anymore. If you or the people you care for want to talk, pick up the phone or start a video chat. Make sure you’re wearing pants though!”
My sister was implying that emotionless messages have little impact on the lives of others, while a small gesture such as a phone call can make an enormous difference.
Modern life is busy, and with all that’s going on, it’s easier than ever to become self-absorbed.
Time slips by faster than you realize, don’t forget to:
- Make a conscious effort to connect with loved ones and those who matter most
- Take the extra step and use more personal forms of communication
- Be genuine in how you communicate and actively listen to what are others are saying
And remember, communication isn’t limited to the words we speak and things we say—body language accounts for more than half of how we communicate with one another.
Needless-to-say, only video conversations facilitate such a deep connection, and there’s little doubt they will grow in popularity as we continue into the unknown.
Where Do We Go From Here?
In a perfect world, we move towards transparency on all levels—governments serving their people honestly, employers entrusting their employees openly, and individuals listening to others genuinely.
Some of us will embrace technology faster than ever and use it to enhance our communication skills. Others will push back and advocate for in-person human connection.
And a few will continue as though nothing has changed.
Video chats and digital hangouts are sure to become the norm, but phone calls and handwritten letters will make a comeback.
Advancements in VR are bound to have a significant impact.
Despite their convenience, two-dimensional digital conferences and meetings are more mentally fatiguing than those held in real life.
Are you Zoomed out, or what?
VR innovators are experimenting with three-dimensional boardrooms, which allows a remote team to work together in a way that feels normal; a digital experience that’s less tiring and more lifelike.
A fascinating topic, to say the least, and one that’s sure to draw attention in the coming months.
Then again, nobody really knows what changes will follow in the wake of COVID-19—it’s all just speculation as we negotiate the new abnormal.
But I’ll leave you with this: as restrictions to community lockdowns are lifted and businesses begin to operate at full capacity, don’t forget how important communication is and the role it plays in keeping us connected.
This time apart has brought us closer together. Let’s stay that way so we’re better prepared for the next crisis.
If you don’t have somebody to talk to, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We can arrange a video chat and work through your challenges together—or we can just shoot the shit if you’d prefer!