In the absence of clarity, we are left to our own personal experiences and limited understanding to make sense of a situation. There are many potential dangers here as we are prone to construct some alternate explanation of reality that incorporates many of our own intrinsic fears, bias, and self beliefs. When confronted with an unclear message, instruction, command, we often assume the worst.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in our daily use of text based chat.
As communication has continually been reduced to text based (Whatsapp, Slack and email), clarity in text and chat messages has become even more important. With so little workplace communication done in person, our conversations are devoid of tone, gesture and facial expression. Because of the delayed and asynchronous nature of chat, we often wait to clarify something that in person would be immediately resolved through a facial expression or body language.
Conversely in chat, we will often stare at an unclear message for minutes or hours before responding. All the while, the wheels and machinations of our brains begin to construct an explanation of the message. With text based chat, messages are sent and received in a distracted state (maybe music is playing, maybe you are in the middle of an email when your chat pings with an important message, maybe your cat just threw up on the carpet) and these unfiltered one liners can send an entire group of people into an unintentional tailspin.
Achieving clarity in communication requires us to first spend time assessing our own motivations and objectives. I believe that only from a place of personal clarity can one make a clear request of a team or another individual, especially via chat.
Take a breath, think about what you are asking, and consider if text based chat is the most effective means for this task?
Rather than assuming the worst, suggest a quick video call if possible to further assess the intent of the sender.
Try to be specific, restate the context for the request, use screenshots.
Turn off notifications, use focus mode.
Probably not, but I believe that continually pursuing more clarity each and every day is something worth striving for and results in happier clients and a happier team. At MasterBorn, we repeatedly emphasize Clarity as a core value. Our persistent internal conversation striving for better Clarity can help to stem some of these unfortunate communication errors. More to come on how the pursuit of clarity improves all aspects of our company.