A few years ago, when we talked about communication, we imagined two people talking face to face. Primarily because our brains had become accustomed to seeing that image both in third person and in ourselves when interacting with another human being. However, this idea has been changing in the last decade. We can test this by asking any teenager to tell us the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word “communication.” In most cases, it will be the image of a conversation through chat, and that’s because technology has evolved in such a way that it has disrupted and modified one of the main innate skills of human beings: communication.
It seems contradictory that, in this era where we are apparently more connected than ever, there is a higher percentage of “misunderstandings.” To understand this, we have to consider something very important, like the fact that now most people communicate more through written means than through our oral capacity, and that is something that detracts from the quality of the message between sender and receiver, as written communication leaves behind our gestures and physical expressions, in other words, our “body language” is completely lost, as well as other important abilities of oral language, such as intonation.
The researcher Albert Mehrabian broke down the impact of a message into percentages.
- 7% verbal
- 38% vocal (tone, nuances and other characteristics)
- 55% signals and gestures
Therefore, we can say that communication is 93% non-verbal, so we should make sure that we have a sufficiently well-written text to be able to convey the information we want to convey to the receiver.
This is especially important in the environment in which development teams operate, and more recently. As it is well known, after the Covid-19 pandemic, face-to-face meetings ceased to be the norm and gave way to the well-known “telecommuting”. As a result, I have observed that oral communication decreased exponentially compared to the increase in written communication. Video conferences mitigate the information gap that arises when we remove non-verbal language from the equation, but it is also true that we do not always communicate through video conferences.
For day-to-day communication, once the collaboration between supplier and client has begun, although we have meeting points in video call meetings, there is a lot of asynchronous written communication, for example, in chats or emails, and it is here where the typical confusion of not having the sender in front of the receiver occurs. In addition, these confusions cause the relationship between both parties to deteriorate, causing discomfort for all team members.
That is why, when we communicate through chats or emails in the workplace, we should continuously track the agreements reached in those communications; that is, have a written confirmation of what both parties (sender and receiver) have understood in their conversation. This way, we ensure that there are no gaps in information, especially when it comes to agreements that affect contractual conditions.
For example, after having that chat or phone conversation, which is something “informal”, there should be a confirmation email where we expose what we have understood and receive a specific confirmation. In other cases, we have some shared information repository with the client, so it is quite common to capture the discussed information in that repository and request confirmation.
Some recommendations to improve communication would be:
- Encourage video calls.
- Encourage the use of visual tools (digital whiteboards, boards, etc).
- Meeting minutes with confirmation by both parties.
This is part of Keepler’s best practices, and has always been applauded by our customers, who appreciate that communication is made so transparent and easy for both parties.
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