Communication occurs in many channels in the virtual space – from conversations by phone, to texts, to email and IM (Instant Messaging). Listening is a critical skill in the virtual space for leaders and team members, whether we work for others, or ourselves.

Research shows that a significant portion of our understanding comes from tone, which is lost when we lean into digital channels of communication – text, email and Instant Messaging (IM). This can lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretations and lack of clarity.

Our listening can be heavily influenced by a number of factors:

•           Our focus and how distracted we are . For example, what we have on our plate or are not reading things fully;

•           Our relationship with the sender – what do we know about their context, their intent, their focus and priorities;

•           Our understanding of the topic;

•           Thinking about what we want to say, rather than listening for what is really being said.

When we are able to meet for verbal conversations in the remote space, we may hear the tone, if we are listening for it. Adding on visual cues – like incorporating video streaming for a meeting instead of just using the phone – can add additional layers on to the conversation. Being able to share our screen and work together real-time can also help us understand a fuller context.

What are the things that are helping and hindering your virtual conversations?

Are distractions getting in the way? How are you using all the tools you have available?  What are you doing to increase your understanding of other’s context and priorities?

As we go to listen in the remote space, we want to ensure that we:

  • Focus – Focus 100% of our attention on the person who is speaking, rather than multi-tasking and using other devices or focusing on other things.
  • Listen to the tone as well as the words. If you are streaming, what do you notice about the body language? A majority of our cues come from how the person is speaking, and what their body language is saying.
  • Listen for the pause points – What does their speed and rate of pitch say? How quickly or slowly are they speaking?
  • Notice what is not being said. Is there an area that is not being covered?

Finally, do you fall into one of the biggest pitfalls of listening today? We want to make sure that we are listening for what is really being said, rather than listening to respond. One of the greatest challenges for most professionals today is that they are so focused on figuring out what they plan to say, that they really are not listening to what is being said. What are you listening for?

Becoming a better listener in the remote space is going to be a critical skillset going forward in business. What attention and tweaks do you want to make?