Your work communication style typically refers to the way you communicate. For example, are you a more direct or indirect communicator? Many organizations use a tool like DiSC or Myers-Briggs or Strengthsfinders to help employees figure out their preferences, and those of their teammates, in the workplace.
While those same principles apply to remote work, when you don’t occupy the same space as your colleagues it’s also important to figure out the actual method you prefer to use for communications.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you come across best in person? Have you ever been told you have an “expressive face” or can’t keep a poker face? Are you naturally observant and able to easily pick up on people’s nonverbal mannerisms?
- Are you a phone person? Your brain works best while pacing or doodling (where your communication partner can’t actually see you)? You enjoy talking on the phone in your free time or have a good deal of experience talking on the phone for previous jobs?
- Do you prefer text communications, over email, messenger, or other online programs? Maybe you like having some time to think about what you are going to say before actually saying it. Do you get nervous or self-conscious in face-to-face social situations?
Determining your own strengths and preferences is the first step to being a better team member. Once you have a handle on your own style, learn what style of communicating your team members prefer. Managers should make it a point to facilitate these types of conversations – either through personality tests, team building or other “getting to know you” activities, or even straightforward polls and questionnaires. Michael D. Watkins of HBR also suggests managers “commit to a communication charter,” which will help guide employees on what and how to communicate, when.
If your company hasn’t organized any ice breaker activities or a communication charter, you may need to pay special attention to the methods the rest of your team is using for day-to-day communications. When in doubt, ask. As we’ve written about before, it’s important that you are open and honest when you work in a virtual environment since the potential for miscommunication or crossed wires is high.
For that same reason, be extra careful not to make assumptions, or take text the wrong way. If you are going to assume anything, assume good intent. Look for the innocence in the action before jumping to conclusions. And if you need clarification or want to smooth things over, opt for a quick call or video chat.