Challenges and opportunities in online communication

Communication through text has become an integral part of our lives.

It is a convenient way to keep in touch with our friends and family, as well as to conduct business. However, when we communicate through text online, we lack most of the social signals that help us navigate in-person communication.

This can present both challenges and opportunities for online communication – on the one hand, it can be difficult to accurately convey emotions or intent without these social cues, on the other hand, it allows us to communicate with people from different backgrounds and cultures without any language barriers. In this article we will explore the challenges and opportunities of online communication.

In today’s era, where you can communicate with people from all over the world in a direct and digital way, it creates very intriguing social phenomena that have implications in all directions.

First, it becomes very easy to communicate with people from different countries, cultures and time gaps in a fast and efficient way. This is done by using simple digital tools such as LinkedIn, email, Zoom calls, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Telegram etc. In this way, globalization promotes social and business opportunities from all over the globe.

At the same time, some other phenomena occur, mainly from a social point of view. The direct consequence of the rise of Internet use worldwide, combined with the struggles of state forces all over the world, is consuming negative news coverage 24/7. This has contributed to a significant increase in mistrust between people. On the one hand, the amount of business opportunities is enormous, and on the other hand, people do not trust each other overwhelmingly.

How do you manage to create a relationship with international colleagues based on the values of trust and appreciation?

Healthy relationships are built on trust. At its core, trust is the willingness of one party to be vulnerable to the actions of another. It is expected that two parties will act in a way that is mutually beneficial. For these reasons, trust is a key element of effective communication, teamwork, employee commitment and productivity. It leads to stronger working relationships and a healthier organizational culture.

Due to the inherent vulnerability involved in trusting relationships, it is widely understood that trust must be earned. This is true whether it is between two colleagues, a manager and employee, or even between an employee and the organization at large. In some instances, it can be challenging to build and maintain trust. This is because individuals may not be aware of the unintentional ways that they have broken trust with their colleagues.

Trust helps to make challenging conversations easier, teams more integrated and employees more engaged. Exploring ways in which trust can be built can help individuals and companies create stronger relationships and healthier cultures.

Types of trust

Trust in the workplace has been the subject of growing research, and models have emerged that help us understand how it is built and maintained. As outlined in the model of trust, there are three critical components: confidence in capability, confidence in character, and confidence in communication.

Having confidence in an individual’s perceived knowledge, skills, and abilities develops capability trust. People are trusted based on their character when they do what they say they will do. Keeping information confidential, telling the truth, admitting mistakes, and sharing information is what constitutes communication trust.

No matter whether you are building trust for the first time or restoring it after it has been broken, considering all dimensions is crucial.

Trust-building tips

Building trust is crucial when establishing the first relationship.
There is a great deal of variation in communication and work styles across the world.
This requires an entirely different way of doing business in order to build trust and develop long-term relationships with customers.

Miscommunication can significantly increase costs by creating unnecessary delays and obstacles to meeting business objectives.

The following are a few general tips that apply to many cultures around the world:

  1. Follow through with your commitments. Saying what you’ll do and then doing what you’ve promised is critical to building trust. When commitments are upheld, we build greater trust in others’ abilities and their intentions. We come to expect that what is said is the truth and that others have our true interests in mind.
  2. Communicate appropriately. In order to become trustworthy, it is necessary to communicate well. This includes both sharing information openly and maintaining confidentiality where necessary.
  1. Be respectful. Respect is about treating others with courtesy, listening to their ideas with an open-mind, approaching conflict in a healthy way and appreciating them for bringing all of who they are into the relationship. Treating others with respect shows you truly care and are committed to their success. It can be helpful to set ground rules for how you’d like to work together so that all parties know what is expected.
  2. Misunderstandings occur because of linguistic and cultural barriers. Loosen your timetable.
    Plan to spend 50-100% more time on communications.
  3. Avoid “yes” or “no” questions. Instead, ask open-ended questions beginning with what, how, when, where or who.
  4. Although relationships may take considerable time on the front end, the return on investment will be extremely high. If you nurture your relationships, they will last a lifetime. Relationships are between people, not companies. Tell them about yourself first.
  5. Avoid using abbreviations, colloquialisms and slang. Although this is a shorthand way of speaking, it may confuse others and increase the time it takes to communicate an idea.
  6. Chart the different time zones and share the burden when scheduling conference calls with your international colleagues.
  7. Be aware of a person’s title, education and experience. Know who you are working and/or meeting with.
  8. Ask your international colleagues to follow up in writing to confirm understanding.
  9. Stay connected. You can call to check in from time to time with no agenda. It is imperative to maintain the human connection especially when you cannot always touch base face to face.
  10. Response time varies greatly across the globe. Send emails requesting information as far in advance as possible. You should not expect an immediate response. People answer emails when they are able to do so.
  11. Use a professional tone and style. Many cultures prefer a formal business communication style.

We know that trust leads to greater intimacy, stronger relationships and a healthier company culture. Trust and psychological safety enable people to take risks, adapt to change, and perform at their best. Trust builds confidence in each other and in the organization.

Trust can take a long time to earn and can easily be damaged. Whether you are building it for the first time early in a work relationship or re-building it once it has been lost, the most efficient thing you can do is take proactive steps to build the relationship and then continue to maintain it over time.