Do you feel that since your team has been working remotely, rapport has been lost, exchanges are more laborious and there are more misunderstandings? This impression is well-founded. Explanations and advice from communication psychology expert Guillaume Dulude.
For the doctor of neuropsychology and communication specialist Guillaume Dulude, our difficulties of communicating effectively through layers of screens have deeper causes than our connection glitches. Exchanges by videoconference and, even more, in writing only (email, chat, text) deprive us of an essential component of communication: physical presence. “By eliminating the physical relationship, we reduce the likelihood of making ourselves vulnerable to each other. However, this physical vulnerability is an important factor in the strength of our relationships, and therefore, in our ability to communicate”, he explains.
In this context, exchanges with our colleagues and superiors risk draining our energy instead of motivating us and nurturing team spirit. Some aspects risk being missed, or might not be well received. “If a message is open to interpretation – and the risk is higher in writing – the brain instinctively jumps to the negative connotation”, explains the author of the book Je suis un chercheur d’or : les mécanismes de la communication et des relations humaines. [I’m searching for gold: mechanisms of communication and human relationships.]
He gives us three tips to overcome these difficulties.
When the physical component of our interactions is removed, the importance of another key component of communication increases: listening. The problem: “On average, people stop really listening to what the other person is saying after 1.5 to 3 seconds,” says Guillaume Dulude, “because they are already starting to prepare their response.”
They then risk missing important elements, not to mention that the person speaking will tend to withdraw into themselves. “When you no longer feel that you are being listened to, the brain automatically ends the conversation,” the communication expert emphasized.
The remedy: “in a conversation, we take account of this phenomenon and make the effort to focus on what the other is saying,” advises Guillaume Dulude. As for that notification flashing in the corner of the screen or that text message vibrating our phone, they can wait!
2.Choose your method of communication according to the message
Who hasn’t mistakenly felt an irritated tone in an email that was simply drafted in a hurry? “We can often come across as annoyed in writing, even though that’s seldom what we want to convey,” admits Guillaume Dulude.
Do you want to remind your colleagues of the details for a meeting or let them know that a step of a project has been completed? A short written message is enough. Need to review the task allocation for an assignment or to provide feedback to an employee? Rather pick up the phone, or better yet opt for a video call. The more complex and sensitive the subject, the more intonations and facial expressions will be necessary for healthy communication.
3.Express yourself in good lighting
Because facial expressions, small gestures and eye movements play a key role in communication, it’s worth making sure that those we’re talking to can see our faces clearly. “Ideally, get set up facing a window. It’s better to avoid overhead lighting, which casts shadows and makes it difficult to read eye activity. It’s more of a technical tip, but it’s important for interaction in the conversation”, Guillaume Dulude points out.
Using these strategies will help to avoid the ‘out of sight out of mind’ syndrome.