BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN
For the foreseeable future, communication is changed at its core.
I spent some time at a friend’s house this weekend; she had just moved and needed help hanging up her patio lights. This wasn’t a new friend – we’ve been friends for a while actually, so I offered up my ladder happy husband to hang the lights while we caught up in person. This in-person catch up was drastically different from what we had been doing with text and video chat. We were over six feet apart, masks on our faces, and perched on chairs in mild discomfort.
Even though it was different, we made it work, because we are both communication-minded folks. There were a few things we talked about consciously doing to ensure our communication still “worked” – even with our masks. These are a few tricks you can use in person (and online!) to make your communication as clear as possible, even at a distance.
When you’re in person:
Meaning comes from 55% body language, 38% cadence (our next point!), and 7% the words you say. If you’re not using gestures to show some of your meaning, you should take advantage of what you can share through your body language. Pay attention to what your gestures are saying – nervous gestures are ones you’re not aware of. The best way to tap into effective gestures initially? Think about what your hands are doing. Are they ADDING to what you’re saying or distracting? Aim to add!
How you say what you say is even more critical now. A quick comment can be missed easily when it’s tossed away as an aside or a side comment. Think about how you feel when you’re speaking – and remember to show, don’t tell. When you’re happy, you want to sound happy – not just say you’re happy. Another way to think about cadence is by moving your voice around. If you’re excited, you can speak quickly, and if you’re making a point, you can speak slower. Check in to how your voice moves through space.
If you’re wearing a mask, chances are your voice is mildly dampened. This one is easy to get past: work on over-enunciating what you’re saying. This means you’re hitting all of the syllables in words and making sure that you’re also speaking clearly. If you want to practice, use tongue twisters to warm up your voice – my favorites are “Irish wristwatch” and “red leather, yellow leather.” Say these two slowly and over enunciate – it’s like stretching before you run a marathon.
When you’re online:
So much communication is happening over email and social media channels, you have to think about what you’re saying, how you feel, and what you want. If you aren’t clear and specific with what you’re saying, your meaning could get missed or confused. Remember the 55% body language, 38% cadence statistic from earlier? You don’t have any of that in your email and online communication. Quick trick? Use as few words as possible to say what you need to say, and be sure that your ask or action item is clear.
Read what you wrote, out loud
When you take some time to read things out loud, you can hear meaning, intention, and more. Don’t just read it in your head! If you’re keeping it in your head, you’re going to fill in meaning and words where it might not be clear. If you say it – really say it, even if it’s quiet, you’ll be able to hear the tone and make sense of your own meaning – that way, you can ensure that you’re making the point you want to be making. Reading things out loud also helps with clarity. Keep it straight and to the point, out loud and written down.