Time to refocus on personal communication

meaningfully engaged in communication

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

There was an article on Fast Company recently titled “A surprising skill that you may need to brush up on when you return to the office”. While I’m not sure if the skill was surprising (communication), I think it may come as a surprise to some people that they might need to brush it up. I mean, it’s not like we didn’t communicate during the pandemic.

Personal communication can be different. And even the best communicators should spend some time thinking about their personal communications.

Choosing the right medium. Think of all the means of communication available to us – texting, emailing, video calls and in person. When we work remotely, such as during the pandemic, face-to-face communication is not necessarily an option. As we spend more time in the office and travel more, the ability to use face-to-face communication increases. This means that we have to remember those cases where it is best to communicate in person because we are expected to be able to.

Feeling at ease with people. If you’ve worked remotely and housed at home, you may not have had much face-to-face contact with others. Just being in the same room with people can be a little stressful. It can be helpful to spend time thinking about what it will be like to be in the office, meeting, or conference with groups. Also think about how you want to de-stress after interacting with people all day.

Small talk is important. At some point, we will spend less time talking about COVID-19 and Delta variant stats and more time on the television shows we watch and where we travel. Those moments of small talk are important. It helps us connect with others. We could find out that a colleague hired during the pandemic is also a Ted Lasso fan.

Body language is important. When we’re on a video call, we don’t always see a participant’s body language. Sure, we could see their facial expressions, but sometimes those have delays (depending on your internet coverage), so it’s hard to get a real-time response. During a face-to-face communication, we can immediately see the reaction of others and must be prepared to process it. You may even respond to it.

Have a personal debrief. Regular HR bartender readers know: I am a big fan of debriefs. A simple two-question debrief can help us improve our communication. After a big meeting or one-on-one, ask yourself 1) What went well during that interaction? 2) What could I do differently next time? Make a mental note of your answers and use them next time. This kind of personal debriefing might be something you want to do for a while to improve your communication skills.

The Fast Company article I mentioned at the beginning of this article reminded me that we need to think about how our communications will be affected in the coming weeks and months. Organizations make and change plans when it comes to: welcoming employees to the office. That means we have to be very flexible in our communication. Not just what we say, but how do we say it.

Capture image by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Salt Lake City, UT

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