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Remote Work for Professionals and Managers: Over Communicate (But Don’t Inundate)

For the first part of this course, we're going to focus on communication.

Communication is the external part of the remote work equation. And, it's arguably the most complex aspect of remote work, because communication is a complex process with many moving parts.

In this section, we'll highlight some of the trickier aspects of navigating this maze from home in the hopes of providing a framework to think about challenges more specific to your individual circumstances and needs.

To begin, let's talk about the importance of overcommunicating.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Overcommunicating sounds antithetical to productivity and clear communication but just bear with me.

Professor Albert Mehrabian breaks down in-person communication into three distinct categories, which he calls the 7-38-55 rule.

In our face to face interactions:

…7% of meaning is formed through words we use,

…38% of meaning is formed through tonality, for example, tone of voice, intonation, and stress patterns, prosody, and inflection patterns

…and 55% of meaning is formed through body language and our nonverbals. That includes facial expressions and even our micro-expressions, which are the expressions that flash across our faces within a fraction of a second.

So, body language and tone of voice comprise 93% of our impression of people and their impression of us, during in-person interactions.

And it's only the remaining 7% that's formed from the spoken word.

Just think about that for a moment in the context of remote work.

When we communicate with people via email, or slack, or instant messenger, 93% of the information we normally covey, for example, the smiles, the furrow of the eyebrows, the soft tone of voice, all of that gets lost.

Instead, you're left with just the words.

That means you need to make the words count.

Really put thought into how you organize your thoughts and be deliberate about what you say and what you write.

The goal should be to achieve clarity through your communication.

It's very easy to misinterpret the tone of an email, so state your position clearly.

If you are frustrated, say that, if you are confused, say that, and if you are pleased say that.

This is what we mean by overcommunicating.

Leaving nothing to be ambiguous and nothing open to interpretation because chances are, they'll interpret it differently than you had intended anyway.

Now, at the same time, overcommunicating does not mean inundating.

Make sure you are only communicating what needs to be communicated.

Avoid filler, make sure you aren't repeating yourself, and be specific so that you don't get caught in a long back-and-forth email chain to clarify what you meant in the first place.

Stay on task and avoid sidebar conversations – yes, there is a place for small talk in the remote work equation, but we'll address that a bit later in the course.

And lastly, the fewer words you use, the more value and impact each word has.

So, choose your words wisely and make them count.


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