Human communication is hard. It’s a highly social skill that needs years and years of practice to become good at. Communicating face-to-face is slightly easier, especially if there is a language barrier, because we can use common or universal body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice to convey meaning and emotions.
However all that is thrown out of the window once you have to interact with people online via messages. It gets significantly harder to deliver the meaning behind your words without the help of your body language and it becomes more likely that others will misinterpret your messages.
That is not to say that the medium itself is not suitable for communication. Online messaging just needs a different set of skills and has its own etiquettes that sadly I see many people not following.
Here are the most common online communication sins I see people doing.
1. “Hi, [insert name]” (then silence)
This might be the most annoying one to me. This is one of those greetings that work when you’re communicating face-to-face but absolutely fails online. When you’re working online, you can expect that whoever you’re trying to speak to is busy working on something. When I see your probing “Hi” message my natural instinct is to ignore it completely until you give me more context. In other words, “Give me a good reason, or any reason at all, why I should put my work on hold and engage with you in conversation.”
A simple hi might get my attention for a second, but a prolonged silence with no follow-ups will just annoy me and make me more likely to ignore you, at least until I get my own work done.
A better alternative is to use the following blueprints for initiating a conversation:
“Hi [insert name]. I ran into some issues today while doing X. Have you ran into the same issues before?”
“Hey, are you free for a quick 5–10 minute call? I need help figuring out X”
“Hello [insert name]. Do you have any updates on X task?”
The common theme between those examples is that following the greeting right away you state the purpose of your interaction. You not only greeted me (which is…