Inclusive Communication

Inclusive Communication is an approach that seeks to 'create a supportive and effective communication environment, using every available means of communication to understand and be understood' - Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.

Inclusive Communication is an approach that seeks to 'create a supportive and effective communication environment, using every available means of communication to understand and be understood' - Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.

Effective communication goes beyond using your words. It encompasses several other aspects such as non-verbal cues, emotional intelligence, and active listening.

Tips on writing clear and concise communications

In theory, communicating seems simple, but in practice, it can be difficult to achieve simplicity. You'd be surprised at how easy it is to add filler words. By focusing on the intent of your message, you can avoid conflict by getting your point across in the fewest number of words.

Eliminate redundant words or phrases.

Example:

šŸ™… So, I was thinking that maybe, we could try meeting at twelve noon instead of 5:00pm for our weekly meetings. I plan on working from home in the afternoon and I was thinking that might be easier. What do you think?

vs.

šŸ™† I'd like to begin working from home in the afternoon from now on. Are you ok with changing our weekly meeting time from 5pm to 12pm?

Refrain from using passive voice.

Practice being decisive and direct when writing - especially in email communications.

Passive: The website was designed by Joan.

Active: Joan designed the website.

Edit, edit, edit.

Give your message some breathing room and revisit it with fresh eyes after around 20-30 minutes. Triple-check everything you write.

Writing: Enunciate your tone with formatting

Remote teams mainly communicate asynchronously. All of those words and information are ping-ponging back and forth simultaneously. However, while concise writing is encouraged, direct communication can sometimes be construed as rude or abrupt. You can convey your tone by formatting your copy and including emojis & images where appropriate (reserving emojis for internal short messages i.e. Slack, Messenger, text).

Formatting: the general rule of thumb

Italics: use for light emphasis, and to highlight quotes, names of publications, conversations or dialogues, stories, etc. It feels strategic and creative at the same time.

Bold: use for strong emphasis

It feels strategic and creative at the same time.

CAPS: used to denote significant emphasis, shouting, or aggressiveness

It FEELS strategic and creative at the same time.

Organize your text into clean paragraphs

Think of how you want your reader to digest your information.

Consider how you want your audience to understand your inflections

Example:

Umm... Let me think about that.

vs.

Hmm šŸ¤” Let me think about that.

In the first example, it's hard to read what the person thinks. Are they busy or annoyed? The emoji and direct phrase in the second example give a much clearer impression.

Be mindful of your virtual body language

When your camera is on, look at who you're speaking with, engage with them, and practice becoming aware of gestures that appear cold or closed off. Though it might sound obvious, body language isn't something we often think about, and being a little more self-aware can make a difference.

Consider the context

Whether you're delivering the message or receiving it, considering the context of your co-worker could help prevent misunderstandings. A few examples of context are: knowing your co-worker's location, cultural norms, and native language. A level up would be considering whether your colleague is having a bad day, going through a rough patch, is burnt out, or is just feeling off. Ask clarifying questions and leave space for information to be processed.

Bonus tip: adding a quick 'check-in / check-out update before and after a weekly meeting could encourage people to share in a manner that's high-level and informative.

 

Check-in example:

Happy Monday. Iā€™m checking in to confirm we will email our Customers the product sheet by 5 pm today.

Check-out example:

I will check in tomorrow regarding the Customer's responses to our email.

Designate tools for specific communication

Too many tools equal too many places for people to comment and relay information. It may also create missed messages or people feeling overwhelmed/bombarded. Basically, conversations are being scattered across multiple channels - across the globe, at that - and then missed.

In general, this is what we've observed as effective ways to structure your communication flow:

  • Keep your questions and side conversation to chat apps, like Slack
  • Send formal requests or action-related items via email
  • Provide status updates through a project management tool

Identify and/or convey the ways to communicate with your team or main contact. When working remotely it's essential to over-communicate so you'll want to establish how, when and where information is communicated.

Think critically

It's easy to blame miscommunication on either the person who's sending the message or the one who's receiving it. Instead, be mindful of how the message could be perceived and interpreted.

  • Consider your words
  • Adapt your communication to who you're speaking with
  • Think of when your message is being delivered and use the scheduling send feature available on most email clients (ex. Sending a status update at 9 am vs 5 pm)
  • Ask for feedback
  • Clarify and summarize (ex. "What I'm interpreting is...", "From what you stated, I'm gathering...")

Lastly, consider the medium for the message. For example, delivering feedback may sometimes seem more efficient over chat, but pairing it with a conversation over the phone or video could help avoid any miscommunication.