Why You’re Constantly Misunderstood on Slack (and How to Fix It)
People weren’t made for the era of remote work
In Microprocessing, columnist Angela Lashbrook aims to improve your relationship with technology every week. Microprocessing goes deep on the little things that define your online life today to give you a better tomorrow.
Efficiency is the trademark quality of online chat platforms. It’s so much quicker and simpler to shoot off a quick message to a friend or colleague than it is to schedule a phone call or an in-person meeting (remember those?). For many of us, though, efficiency has always been secondary to a different attraction: Sending someone a chat or a text feels like a semi-anonymous action, divorced from the identifiable, highly personal context of the sound of the voice and the expressions of the face. Typing out a message semi-dissociated from the self makes the delivery that much easier for those of us who are shy or socially anxious.
But this separation of message from context makes misunderstandings much more likely. Body language is a silent but critical feature of talking face-to-face, but it’s missing from most online discussions, resulting in a lot of guesswork the listener has to perform to read between the lines of a statement. Add a time when most people who work in office environments are now depending almost entirely on chat platforms and the occasional video or phone call, dump a heavy dose of stress and anxiety from a global pandemic and social unrest, and you have a recipe for communicative disaster. It doesn’t have to be inevitable, though: Proper management and an empathetic assumption that most people are trying their best can help smooth over the worst of it.
Part of the issue with chat platforms is that they represent a relatively new form of communication, and so we don’t have agreed-upon rules and guidelines for how we’re supposed to behave on them. “People forget that our face-to-face communication has been honed over millions of years in terms of species, but also whatever your life-span is in terms of human behavior,” says Bradley Brummel, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Tulsa, whose research focuses on employee engagement and personality in the…