There seems to be some debate on how much of our messages are communicated non-verbally. The range is often quoted between 60 and 93 per cent. There’s a 7% - 38% - 55% rule that circulates, saying seven per cent of our communication is based on the words, 38 percent is based on our tone and vocal cues, and 55 per cent is on our body language.
Despite the breakdown of the numbers, when you don’t go face-to-face in communication, you lose the chemical benefits we talked about in our post about sparking fascination and trust in conversations. In a phone conversation, you have the advantage of using vocal cues, but an email relies completely on the words. If the above formula is true, there is a 7 % chance of conveying what you need to, based on words alone. Add a camera to the call, and you have some of the advantages of face-to-face, but you still lack that chemical connection of being present with one another, in the same room.
Charitable Interpretation, where you interpret the other person’s meaning and intent with goodwill, and attach the most favorable perspective to their words, is a tool you can use in any conversation – virtual or otherwise.
Phone & Teleconference Conversations
•Take a few minutes at the start of your conversation for up-front connection and bonding. Be intentional and authentic, while respecting the need for others on the call, to get on with the business of the call.
•Smile. Even though the other party may not be able to see it, your smile comes through in your voice and enhances connection.
•Demonstrate respect to engage your virtual audience – give your undivided focus. Don’t give in to the urge of answering your email while the other person Is talking. Remember, hearing is more acute in a phone call and the other party may hear the tapping of a keyboard.
•Reflect implications: reflect back the essence of the speaker’s message, and the implications of what that may mean inside their world. This sends a clear signal to them that you deeply understand their message as well as where they are coming from. People tend to trust someone who understands them.
•Use word pictures and stories to intrigue the listener and help them understand your world.
•Before composing an email, step into the other person’s world and ask yourself whether this is the best way to send the message, or if a phone call or a face-to-face conversation is best. If it is an emotional, personal or sensitive issue, email is not the vehicle to use.
•Consider the language that most appeal to this person. Are they technical or non-technical, formal or informal, expressive or succinct? Frame your message in the language that will make it easy for them to read and relate to.
• When you read something ambiguous in an email and it strikes you the “wrong way”, pick up the phone and ask clarifying questions with the intent of understanding, rather than being accusatory. Get curious. If it’s impossible for you to go voice to voice, then send an email asking for clarification: “I wanted to check with you on your email earlier today. Your comment on me being like ‘a dog with a bone’ could be interpreted as either admiring my perseverance or being annoyed at my stubbornness. I wanted to make sure I understood your intent. Can you say more?” Do not allow your uneasiness to go unvoiced, otherwise your heightened sensitivity may be mis-read in subsequent communication.
What has worked for you in your virtual conversations? Share your ideas here – we want to hear your suggestions!
Co-Founder of Juice Inc, Thought Leader & Author
Co-Founder of Juice Inc.
General Manager and Director of Sales
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Senior Facilitator & Keynote Speaker