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Interacting Virtually? 15 Bad Communication Habits To Break

Technology has increasingly become the medium of modern communications, especially in the COVID-19 era. With so many of our interactions happening on digital platforms, we need to become experts in clearly communicating with each other through email, video conferencing and instant messaging.

It’s easy to cause misunderstandings—or worse, unintentionally offend others—if you have poor digital communication skills. That’s why we asked members of Forbes Coaches Council which common bad habits they’ve observed in online interactions and how to break them. Follow their advice to boost your virtual communication etiquette.

Members of Forbes Coaches Council detail bad virtual communication habits and what people should do instead.

  1. Talking To Yourself

One of the worst habits in communication is talking to yourself. What I mean by this is that you talk to others from your own knowledge and vantage point. Instead, speak to the others listening. What do they know about the situation? What do they need to understand about the situation? Why is this being asked? Context is what is required. Speak with clarity from another’s point of view. - Linda Martin, Levelup-global

  1. Using Text-Based Communication

When you have a challenging conversation that involves emotions, hiding behind technology may worsen the situation. Most people send an email or a WhatsApp message or post on a portal, but it is not the way to go. I would recommend talking to people face-to-face whenever possible. Also, when someone is doing a great job, making a phone call could transmit the right feelings instead of just an email. - Maria Ines Moran, Action Coach

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  1. Disregarding Basic Manners

With the rise of technology, we’ve seen a decrease in interpersonal skills. Often basic manners are disregarded when it comes to communication in the interest of speed and efficiency. It is still important to address someone personally in an email and not write in the fragments commonly used in texting. Let’s not let grammar or common courtesy be forsaken as we proceed boldly in this digital world. - Joanna Dutra, The Creative Confidant

  1. Communicating With Every Audience The Same Way

A critical component when communicating is to have a keen understanding of your audience and adjust your approach with the medium you select. The more complex the subject, the more face-to-face communication is required. Use texts and emails for more routine messages. Also, remember that some personality styles like introverts prefer things in writing so they have time to digest, whereas extroverts prefer face-to-face communications. - Christine Mann, MANN Consulting, LLC

  1. Leaving Notifications On In Virtual Meetings

Make sure your notifications are switched off while you are in a virtual meeting. It is annoying to hear the sounds of emails coming in or background noises from other apps when you are not muted or while you are talking. It’s even worse when they “fly-in” while you are sharing your screen in a video conference. Familiarize yourself with the options your computer has and enable them before joining. - Ute Franzen-Waschke, Business English & Culture

  1. Overefficiency In Digital Communications

Consider putting less emphasis on efficiency in every single communication and a little more on pausing to remember you’re communicating with a human who wants to feel relevant and be heard. We tend to transact and keep it moving, but slow down a bit and smile while speaking through technology. - Michele Davenport, MOSAIC COACHING SOLUTIONS

  1. Not Thinking Before You Send Messages

Digital ways of communication are prone to create various unhealthy habits. With email, it is spamming too many addressees and IM channels tend to be reactive since they encourage immediate contact. There are simply too many virtual meetings, so the solution with all of them is to pause and reflect. Who needs to read this? Who needs to be there? How will this person understand this message? Then engage. - Inga Bielińska, Inga Arianna Bielinska Coaching Consulting Mentoring

  1. Lack Of Mutual Listening

Communication is a two-way action within a relationship. A bad characteristic, whether in analog meetings or virtual ones, is a lack of mutual listening and interaction. Simply unloading messages without first looking at the recipient and thinking about what their expectations, hopes, wishes or problems are leads to misunderstandings. - Michael Thiemann, Strategy-Lab™

  1. Being ‘On’ 24/7

Establishing boundaries is key. Being “on” and accessible 24/7 is no way to live life. When you are on, be sure to be mindful of and true to your brand regardless of the media. - Mimi Moore, exeCoaching International

  1. Misreading People’s Online Behaviors

We unnecessarily make assumptions about others, including how they communicate, their style, pace and how they respond to change. When we better understand each other and our behaviors, we are more productive and innovative. - Julie Holunga, Chinook Executive Solutions

  1. Leaving Your Microphone On When You’re Not Speaking

As simple as it sounds, muting your microphone when you’re not speaking can make a huge difference in the success of a call or video conference. Hearing dogs bark, contractors work, side conversations or a TV in the background frustrates the group. Nobody wants to be that person who has to say, “Please mute your phone!” - Karan Rhodes, Shockingly Different Leadership

  1. Repeating Yourself Over Different Mediums

Having the same conversation repeatedly through phone, email, text or video and regurgitating what we already know (hot air) or superficial chatter can be counter-productive. Engaging in real and useful communications where we can listen, share and learn is a worthy investment of our time and energy. If you cannot gain or provide value in communication, be discerning about if, when and how you will communicate. - Keda Edwards Pierre, True II Soul

  1. Taking A ‘One Email For All’ Approach

Know your audience and how best to communicate with them. Too many leaders take the “one email for all” approach, but great communicators understand their audiences’ preferences. Some people are great with texts, some want a phone call, email or a video call and others want a mixture of all of the above. An effective leader learns what works best for each. - Gregg Ward, The Gregg Ward Group

  1. Treating Email Informally

One bad, technology-based habit is treating email as an informal means of communication. It is easy to fire off a quick email without considering your audience and while using email informally with co-workers may be acceptable, some audiences, such as customers, require a more formal and thoughtful approach. Before hitting send, check your tone and message. Is it professional? - Cheryl Czach, Cheryl Czach Coaching and Consulting, LLC

  1. Not Being Present During Live Meetings

The most common bad habit that happens in face-to-face meetings is an attendee simply not being present. This manifests in behaviors like arriving tardy, multi-tasking and being disengaged. Meeting owners see it and the vicious cycle begins when this bad habit rubs off on other attendees. Management needs to lay ground rules and reboot the discipline. - Dana Manciagli, Job Search Master Class

First published on https://www.forbes.com/ August 18, 2020