If you find yourself second-guessing everyday communication lately, you’re not alone. From social media posts to good ol’ fashioned email, this shared crisis has forced everyone to reevaluate the communication conventions we take for granted (RIP “Cheers!” and “Wishing you a rad 2020!”). Here are a few tips for making sure your professional etiquette is on-point without being overbearing.
Empathy Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All
If people don’t know you as a touchy-feely sort of person, don’t take up half an email writing a flowery introduction asking how the recipient is doing, how their dog is holding up, etc. If that’s you and everyone knows it, then go right on ahead with your Shakespearean ode to the joys and sorrows of long-distance professional relationships.
It helps to have your recipient in mind as you write. Unless you’re the sort of person who gravely greets your friends with “In this unprecedented time of uncertainty,” starting off your emails that way will come off as flat and insincere. Substituting a simple “Hey, hope you’re doing well!” intro or “Be well” signature doesn’t count against the five-sentence rule. Plus, it reassures your colleagues/friends/relatives that you’re not actually an android wearing a human skin suit. Find phrasing that works for you and stick with it.
Avoid Empathy Fatigue
Depending on where you live, we’re about two or three months into self-quarantine and sometimes it’s tiring to be reminded that we’re all in the MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC (and in this together… ahhhh). Maybe you’re already tired of reading this article (jk, of course, you’re not). Companies sending out emails with coronavirus or related phrases in the subject line have seen a decrease in open rates. The same rules apply for interpersonal communication—it’s ok to schedule a zoom meeting without tacking on a fluffy reminder on the virtues of handwashing.
Next time you write an email to a colleague, take a moment to think about their situation and what they might be going through. People are dealing with spouses losing jobs, unruly children home from school, the stress of picking up groceries, not being able to do their favorite outdoor activities, and just plain loneliness. To check in with someone you think might be going through a hard time, simply ask “How are you doing?” during a private call or via a Slack thread. If appropriate, offer to help in some way, perhaps by delivering food or taking a few work tasks off their hands.
If you’re not used to navigating communication minefields, even sending simple messages right now can be incredibly daunting, especially for new managers or team leads. Checking in on your team or communicating with clients or customers you work with frequently? This is where you can get creative. Ask questions about what their lives look like now. Our team loves: “What’s making you laugh right now?” and “What’s the last show you binged?” These allow us to show compassion and interest without getting too negative. And if someone’s really struggling, their answers will still show they need a little extra support and you can adjust your communication style accordingly.
Need more tips for navigating our remote working world? Read these Work From Home Hacks to Keep You Sane. In any case, Artisan is here to connect great companies with great talent. Reach out and let us know what you’re looking for.