So you’ve just put together your dream team and Shaq and Kobe aren’t playing nice together. There is so much potential, and you just cringe when untapped resources go to waste. No matter how professional each individual is, teams will always have miscommunication problems. Personality clashes, power issues, and lack of clarity over team goals will always make collaboration and communication difficult with some members. Let’s say that your superstar team is above that. Bad things can still happen: important emails ending in the spam folder, people forgetting about meetings or missing deadlines.
Let’s find out some simple tactics everyone can use to avoid miscommunication in real life and the best tools to use virtually.
But, first of all, why isn’t it working? As a team member or a team leader, you must be sick of these situations by now:
Misunderstanding: Failing to understand something correctly can lead team members to keep making assumptions and set expectations based on some false piece of information. This isn’t the first time Sally from financial sent out the wrong invoice, is it?
Non-understanding: Sometimes a member will just not receive or process information, which means they will not be able to interpret it. I’m pretty sure Sally did not get the memo and kept making payments to the guy that left the company last month.
Misinterpretation: Even when team members understand what they’re supposed to do, their interpretation might be wrong. Usually, the problem arises when one assumes that the other party already has the information they need, when they actually don’t.
Real life miscommunication
Many researchers tried and failed to find that quantifiable something that will transform your average team into a steroid pumped corporate guerilla warfare unit. There just isn’t any optimal team size or group structure that will prevent miscommunication and lack of collaboration. However, communicative tight-knit teams have a lot of things in common. I’ll explain them below.
The one main thing that successful teams have in common is an unwritten social code that states quite an obvious thing: “everyone speaks equally”. You may be rolling your eyes out, because it sounds so trivial and easy to implement. But if it’s that easy, why do most teams fail to get this right?
Potential for miscommunication will always be abundant. As a business owner or team manager, you can improve communication by clarifying everyone’s expectations and roles. In time, this will lead to an enhanced sense of trust and purpose amongst team members, which will increase productivity.
What you shouldn’t do is “own the show.” People tend to be open and communicate freely when they feel safe to do so. When a conversation isn’t monopolized by someone, people are more likely to give honest input and ask questions without the fear of overstepping boundaries set up by someone up the chain.
Team members should always pay attention to body language. Almost all messages rely on tone, inflection, gestures, facial expressions, posture rather than the actual words.
An unintentional terse tone could leave other participants with the wrong impression. If sensitive by nature, they will soon be misinterpreting the message and will act out based on false assumptions. Good communicators always pay attention to body language, as it can be one of the main causes for miscommunication.
Besides body language, active listening is an equally important factor. Team members shouldn’t presume to know what the other will say. If anything is unclear, a simple “What do you mean?” is more efficient than assuming your mind reading skills haven’t dulled out.
Most of us don’t have enough time to spare on conversations. We try to squeeze them in when we can – on our way to the kitchen, when running into someone in the hallway etc. A good practice is to set aside time specifically for uninterrupted talks. By doing so, the other participant will feel valued. Hence, he will be more likely to express himself clearly, without the fear of time running out.
Unless done right, virtual communication too can become a nightmare.
Dates, times, tasks, fees, statistics, email addresses or links can easily be misspelled. In most cases, things will get ugly between people before they realize a comma was missing. With email as the main tool for formal communication, it’s easy to hit Send by mistake before the writing is done or before a proper proof reading. Once the mistake is in the system, it takes even more communication to get it out.
Avoid sloppy formatting
When verbal body language cues are absent, the way a message is formatted can suddenly become more important than usual.
If a top tier manager sends a poorly formatted email filled with incomplete sentences and bad grammar, the underlying message could be that he can’t be bothered with writing a proper email. Also, the recipients could start feeling they are not worthy of a polished text. Before you know it, the whole team morale goes down.
Make effective use of emojis
When facial expressions are missing in a conversation, subtle nuances disappear leaving room for too many interpretations.
Although it might feel silly at first, the proper use of a frown or a smiley face can make a world of difference, even in the most sober texts and presentations. Whether we like them or not, emojis are the direct correspondents of body language. A good communicator should know when and how to use them to get their point across.
Watch out for time of response
Promptness of response has meaning in digital communication. To some extent, it can indicate the quality of a relationship.
In the case of late feedback, the recipient could easily start questioning whether his input is valued or not. Sometimes people just have busy days, but that shouldn’t be an excuse.
Employ the right media
Because of the lack of body language interpretations, contextual clues will take on greater significance than expected. The message will count just as much as the way it is communicated. Instant messages will seem of more importance than emails, even if the actual body of the message states otherwise.
In other words, if you want something done ASAP, send an instant message, not an email. Better yet, just make a video call.
Change your tools
The channels we use are incredibly important for preventing miscommunication. Emails can be confusing and ambiguous, and in need of deciphering. One solution is to ditch the outdated email system and switch to modern collaborative software.
Take Hubgets, for example.
With one-to-one and group chat, voice and video calls, file transfer and interactive boards that allow for immediate reactions, it’s really easy for team members to be on the same page. The response is swift and has all visual clues to make the most subtle of messages loud and clear.
Virtual connections become more human and increase empathy and collaboration among team members. All channels of communications are in the same place. So, there is no need to constantly switch between platforms. Hubgets also uses AI to compute a real-time happiness index. Based on that index, the app reduces the level of frustration. For example, if a team member is focusing on a task, Hubgets will make sure he is not interrupted by notifications and irrelevant messages.
All in all, miscommunication can happen anywhere at any time, even between seasoned communicators. Human error will always be present, but a clear manner of speaking, a simple work culture running on equality and smart collaboration software that keeps everything together will go a long way in preventing miscommunication from happening.