As remote communication becomes the increasing norm for clients, co-workers, employees, and managers, we as the sender need to think twice about how we write, and the possible ways our emails could be interpreted.
I have to ask myself and you: do we really need to check the tone of our emails? Has it really come to a point that we’re unable to understand what’s being said to us via our screen? Or is it true what they say, “Face-to-face” communication can never be replaced”?
Last year, Lymbix launched ToneCheck. The free product claims to be the solution to one of the biggest problems when communicating with people via email – misinterpretation of what the email really means. We all have run into this problem. We send an email about a meeting or suggest an edit on a project and the receiver of the email takes it too personally. The result? You have an irritated employee/co-worker who thinks you’re out to get them.
It’s interesting because I’ve been using this product via my outlook and am going to implement it in my Gmail (just for kicks). What it does, is read what you’re writing, and based on your word choice and sentence structure, it tells you what the receiver may think you’re saying. It claims to analyze emotional insight too. I’m still not 100% sold on that, but it does make me think twice about what I am writing.
This is a benefit and also problem. It’s time consuming to mull over and rewrite emails. It’s also time consuming to constantly worry that you’re going to upset someone when in fact you’re just being direct. It’s even more time consuming and mentally draining to deal with virtual conflict. Wouldn’t you agree?
The more I think about ToneCheck the more I realize that it isn’t necessarily the way we write our emails but rather the way we work in a team. Sure, we sometimes send an email that comes off different than what we intended, but, if the person you’re writing to already knows how you communicate, shouldn’t they be able to recognize that there’s no harm in those words?
This makes me think that it’s not our tone, but rather our team building and co-operation skills that may be the problem. If you’re going to be working virtually with a team, you may not get the chance to meet in person, so make your virtual introduction count. It will set the ‘tone’ for communications later on.
Here are three ways do this virtually:
If you can, before you work with anyone virtually set-up a Skype meeting to introduce yourself and your company. This is the new face-to-face. It will give the receiver a sense of who you are and put a face to the name in the emails they’re going to be getting. Doing this first will provide long term benefits, and even make the way you interact more credible.
2. Video Introduction
Video introductions are simple and easy. You don’t have to overdo it, just send a quick minute and half video about yourself, what you do and what you’re looking forward to in regards to working with this team. It’s more personal and again, puts a face to the name.
3. Send a Picture
If Skype or video are not available solutions, why not send a picture? A picture gives the person a better idea of who they are talking to – the face of the message. This simple addition will add more personality to your email and increase the comfort level for you and your team.
While ToneCheck could be a solution to potential day-to-day remote communication misunderstandings, it could also create unnecessary worry and uncertainty. This is why it’s still the team building that provides security within us, our co-workers and the project. And why it’s important to make sure that you have a good project management software, like Sharepoint Hosting 2010, which allows everyone to work in sync – not just via email.
If you’re going to be virtually working with a team, a proper visual introduction will give everyone that extra confidence boost needed in order to successfully and comfortably work together.
There’s no reason not to hold at least one virtual face-to-face meeting and I’m not sure there’s a need for ToneCheck.
Cassie Doubleday is a Canadian based tech geek and blogger with over three years experience in online social media marketing and online communities. She’s a Gen Y with a background in Public Relations. She often checks her tone.