14 Ways To Improve Bad Communication Habits In The Digital Age

For better and for worse, the digital age has changed the way we communicate in nearly every facet of our lives. The workplace is no exception to this rule.

While technology can increase productivity by making it easier to efficiently share information, it can also lead to some poor habits when it comes to interacting with others.

The members of Forbes Coaches Council know the importance of good communication skills, especially among colleagues. We asked a group of them to share some bad workplace communication habits they see most often nowadays, and how you and your team can improve those skills with 14 easy steps.

  1. Practice Maintaining Eye Contact

It’s difficult to hold a conversation with someone in the workplace without demanding eye contact because they’re distracted with their devices. One way to go about improving communication in the workplace is to politely ask for their attention for a few minutes and maintain eye contact. It’s great to go straight to the point once we engage them with eye contact and keep the conversation short. - J. Ibeh Agbanyim, Focused Vision Consulting, LLC

  1. Use Cameras During Virtual Meetings

Professionals are reluctant to use their cameras during virtual talks and it is a great mistake. It is one thing that contributes to building good rapport in virtual teams. This way participants are able to maintain eye contact. Visual contact is not only the best way to gather information, but also the fastest way to build trust. - Inga Bielińska, Inga Bielinska Coaching Consulting Mentoring

  1. Speak In Person Or Over The Phone As Often As Possible

People rely too much on email or IM. People in the workplace rarely pick up the phone to talk to their co-workers or visit their desks. Their co-workers could be sitting in the cubicle next to them and they will send an email instead of having the face-to-face interaction. The manager should encourage staff to engage in person or via the phone in order to build better relationships on the team. - Katrina Brittingham, VentureReady LLC

  1. Complete All Communication Loops

A bad communication habit I see lately is ghosting, i.e. not responding or closing the communication loop. I see this habit show up in executives when they are uncertain about how to respond, or have a potentially negative message or are very busy with other things. Set an intention to respond to all incoming communication and close the loop. - Shefali Raina, Alpha Lane Partners

  1. Ask For Clarification Before Making Assumptions

One of the biggest bad habits is our tendency to assume we understand what is being communicated. Truly communicating requires you understand what is being said. The quicker the response, the easier for misunderstanding. Before you respond, especially if the communication has triggered an emotional response, pause and ask for clarification. If you communicate in writing, check whether you can rephrase it more clearly before you send your message. - Lynda Reid, EdD, PCC, Kusala LLC

  1. Verify Your Sources Of Information

Effective communication in the digital age is under duress. Clickbait and other forms of unchecked information manipulate many individuals who have not developed critical thinking skills. Couple the bad habit of accepting details at face value with the rapid pace of modern life and it can be difficult to shine the light of reason on bad information. To improve, slow down and verify your sources. - Lillian Gregory, The Institute for Human and Leadership Excellence

  1. Learn ‘Netiquette’

One of the biggest issues that occur in virtual communication is lack of netiquette. That is a term that online universities have used to help students to develop how they communicate in an online classroom. Netiquette includes understanding tone and how certain things like writing in all caps can be considered yelling. It is crucial that people learn netiquette for effective communication. - Dr. Diane Hamilton, Tonerra

  1. Include The Fundamental Elements Of A ‘Friendly’ Email

The one-sentence response has become the standard power-communication method, but it actually undermines relationships, because it feels (and is) rude. It’s hard to read emotion and energy in written communications, which is why we shouldn’t forget the five elements of the “friendly” letter: header, greeting, body, complimentary close and signature. CEOs, try adding “thanks” and see what happens! - Aric Wood, XPLANE

  1. Don’t Respond Too Quickly

In this digital age, not crafting a well thought out reply to clients and other important people is a big issue. People still judge your work. Take the time to write things that matter, have an impact and that you would be happy for anyone to see 10 years from now. Consider using a productivity tool such as to edit and professionalize your business writing. Don’t send angry emails. Sleep on them and then delete them. - Gene Russell, Manex Consulting

  1. Follow The Two-Volley Rule For Emails

I see an over-reliance on email to address complicated or nuanced work issues. People often waste time trading emails for days (or weeks!) and then are frustrated with the outcome. Try using a two-volley rule: If an issue goes back and forth twice via email and still isn’t resolved, call on the phone or talk in person. There’s a good chance that one or both people were missing key information. - Monisha Toteja, Dynamic Speaking

  1. Reduce The Number Of Times You Check Your Email

Do not check your email before noon, and decide how many times a day you can process your email. Have that number be as low as possible. Ideally, it’s one or two. You wouldn’t check your snail mailbox 20 times a day, right? - Josef Shapiro, Clear and Open

  1. Put Your Phone Away During Meetings And Conversations

My biggest pet peeve is being in a meeting and people are on their cell phones. No matter if they’re responding to work messages, if we’re here, let’s be here. I once worked for someone who was constantly on their cell phone responding to emails while I updated them on important information, it made it very hard to care about providing results for that person. - Miranda Vonfricken, Miranda VonFricken Mastermind Coaching

  1. Don’t BCC People On Emails

When you blind carbon copy (BCC) someone, it may inform them, but when that kind of communication habit is known—the fact that this is something you do often—it can hurt your reputation and put the BCC receiver at risk for the horrible potential Reply All. BCCing makes you look like you are hiding the fact you copy others on direct emails. The best advice? Avoid BCCing people—period. - John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.

  1. Use The Right Communication Tool For The Message

Understanding which communication tool is the most appropriate for the message you intend to deliver is crucial. Here’s a rule of thumb: Text messages for short updates under one sentence. Telephone or video calls for two-way conversations. Email for more detailed communication. Greeting cards in the mail if you want to make a personal connection and be remembered. - Michela Quilici, MQ Consulting and Business Training, Inc.

Adapted from an article written by Forbes Coaches Council, first published on, August 13, 2019