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How to be Emotionally Intelligent with Written Communication at the Workplace

Emotions play a big part in our communication at the workplace, either face-to-face or written. The way we express our emotions require us to be sensitive to others’ emotions. In the same way, we also need to be sensitive to our own emotions and values and respond accordingly. The mastery of our own emotions is a skill that can help us become more productive at work. Working on how we express ourselves can greatly affect how we connect and collaborate with others.

Expressing ourselves through written communication is a challenging task as we have limited means to express our ideas. Email, chats and all other sorts of documents in a workplace often focus totally on the subject or topic; which makes it difficult to understand the emotions behind them. However, I feel we need to make space for our emotions, ideas, and thoughts to be freely expressed in any form of communication to build lasting trust and cooperation with our colleagues.

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Pros and Cons of Written Communication In The Workplace?

The digital age has made communication faster and more accessible. We’re able to send messages to people we can’t meet personally in a more efficient manner. Emails and text messages can distribute information to people anywhere in the world while we’re at the comfort of our desk.

We use written communication in many different situations at the workplace. Some of these situations can be found below :-

  • Sharing important information through emails to different division members
  • Providing feedback on documents sent to us for review
  • Responding to messages asynchronously
  • Requesting permission for vacations leave and other administrative tasks

These situations can get challenging since you need to fit your message into a certain format and you’re left to express your message often only through text. There are no verbal and nonverbal cues to help you express your thoughts.

Emotions can get in the way or get you on the way. -Mavis Mazhura

Emotions can get in the way or get you on the way. -Mavis Mazhura

So, where does emotional intelligence fit? Emotional intelligence can help us in phrasing our emotions into words and sentences. The knowledge of our emotions serves as a guide to how we can communicate better with other professionals.

Communication, in whatever form, is never detached from our personality (thoughts, emotions, beliefs). Even a simple email or letter is already an expression of ourselves. Emotional Intelligence is not just about communicating verbally and listening to others. It is about expressing ourselves clearly regardless of what medium we use for communication.

Written communication, while it is effective, also has drawbacks. Since messages are limited to written text, they can get lost in translation. The way we choose to express the message can be interpreted differently by the other person. Some parts or the whole intent of the message can be misunderstood.

When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion. – Dale Carnegie

What Can We Do To Avoid Confusion And Misinterpretation?

By being careful about a few ideas as listed below, we can make written communication easier for others to process and understand :-

  1. Write messages in simple and short sentences. Written communication is about effectively transferring information. By adopting a simple style of writing, we become more effective since there is less room for misinterpretation.
  2. Ask others if they understand the message you’re expressing. The most effective way to ensure that no miscommunication happens is by confirming the message with others. There’s nothing wrong with asking colleagues if they understood the details you provided.
  3. Be careful in being funny or sarcastic. It’s alright to add some humor to messages, but be sensitive of others who might get offended or misinterpret them.
  4. Avoid emotionally-charged messages. Written communication is not meant for emotional release. Ask yourself if you would have the courage to say the same thing face to face. If not, don’t express it as an email either.
  5. Ask for acknowledgement if you expect something back. Or follow up if you don’t hear back or hear an unsatisfactory response to make things clear.
It isn't stress that makes us fall--it's how we respond to stressful events. -Wayde Goodall

It isn’t stress that makes us fall–it’s how we respond to stressful events.
-Wayde Goodall

When Should We Not Use Written Communication?

While written communication may be helpful, there are times when its use is not the best choice. Having the presence of mind not to use written communication if the situation calls for it is also being emotionally intelligent. Some situations like those listed below might require a personal conversation instead of written.

  • Discussing sensitive or emotion-loaded discussions – Written communication cannot express the full spectrum of emotions and messages we wish to send to others. Verbal and nonverbal cues are important when talking about sensitive topics to be able to fully express emotions and communicate the message without room for misinterpretation.
  • Personal discussions – Personal discussions often require attention and immediate feedback. The nature of written communication, unfortunately, cannot fit the needs of these important discussions.

In conclusion, becoming emotionally intelligent requires us to know when and how written communication can be used in a professional setting. Doing it well allows us to capitalise on human relationship and unlock the huge potential when people work together for a common purpose and mission. On the other hand, if not done well, it can also go downhill pretty quickly.

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