However, working virtually can cause extra challenges when it comes to communication. Sometimes you might have a tendency to lock yourself behind your office door and spend many hours working, and not necessarily speaking to other people either on the phone or in person. When you allow this to happen, your communication skills begin to diminish. Learn to be conscious of your behavior when you do speak to someone and make an effort to practice and enhance these necessary skills.
Think about some of the face-to-face or phone conversations you’ve had recently. What made you feel at ease during the exchange? Or what made you feel on edge? What was asked of you to cause either of these emotions? If it was discomfort, what do you think would have been a better way to ask the question or raise the topic?
To help you along with this process, here are seven tips for healthy and productive communication:
- When asking questions of someone, ask open-ended questions (like the ones above) instead of those that require a yes/no answer. Example: What do you want to accomplish today? Instead of: Are you going to finish that project today?
- Don’t assume the answer when you ask the question. Here’s an example: You like the direction we’re going in, right? It assumes the person likes the direction and if they don’t, how likely are they to tell you now? A better question would be: How do you feel about the direction we’re going in?
- If the person gets off track, ask another question to get them back on track. Asking questions will help you learn about the other person’s thinking and sometimes you’ll learn more than you thought necessary. However, this can be beneficial. Just don’t let the topic stray too far. That’s great information, but what I really need to know is why do you feel this way about the direction we’re taking?
- Avoid asking accusatory questions that will immediately put someone on the defense such as: Why did you let that happen? What did you do wrong? Instead ask empowering questions that allow the other person to know their opinion matters. How do you think that happened and what can we do together to fix it? Do you hear the difference in those examples?
- Listen with interest. It’s disrespectful and does no good to ask a question and then not pay attention to the answer. Furthermore, keep quiet!! If you’re prone to say “uh-huh” too often while someone is talking, consider muting your phone. When the person you’re listening to stops talking, count to seven before you speak to make sure they are finished. If they ask, “Are you still there?” You can always answer with, “Yes, I thought you had more to say.” Likely, they’ll continue talking.
- When necessary, make qualifying statements to ensure that you understand fully what the other person is communicating. If I understand you correctly, the source of the problem is … or What I’m hearing you say is…
- Understand the why. Asking ‘why’ opens so many doors into what the other person is thinking and feeling. Why do you want to make six figures? Why do you have these feelings? Why is this important to you?
By guiding conversations so that they are meaningful and constructive, you will create a feeling of camaraderie, trust and a willingness to work together that will benefit all parties involved.
What are some of the things you do when communicating with prospects and clients?
Want To Use This Article In Your Ezine or Website? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Virtual Assistant Jama St. John of Gulf Coast Office Support publishes a biweekly e-newsletter with tips for office efficiency. To receive your subscription, go to www.gulfcoastos.com.