Lost in (Isolation) Translation

Written by Rosie Dunsford

It is week 10 of lockdown and I am going to have to admit that some people have had emails from me that have said “Regards” rather than “Kind regards”. Why? Because I am human, and on the days that have been really really challenging (of which there have been more than I care to count), that is the only possible way I can express my despair without unleashing a stream of consciousness attack on some poor unsuspecting recipient of my email.

Communication in this new world is a tough one. If difficult conversations need to be had, it’s not ideal to have them via email. And if they do need to happen over email, the consideration given to tone and context and subtext needs to be scrutinized and the email carefully crafted.

If you are lucky enough to speak to someone on the phone (one of my absolute favourite pastimes), you have to be prepared for the fact that they might be having a bad day, or they might have their child sitting next to them being home-schooled, or worst of all they might have just found out someone they know has tested positive for covid-19.

The lines of professional and personal communication are much more blurred than they used to be – we all now see into each other’s houses via video calls, we write emails that start with asking how each other’s coping in this challenging time, and move on to talk ‘shop’ before signing off with a “keep safe” or a “take care”. A stark reminder that the world has become so much scarier than it was just 10 weeks ago.

So how do we keep communication clear concise positive and relevant during this remote time? These are the top tips that I have come up with:

  • Always think about how your communication might be perceived. Think about the content, the tone, and the timing (of an email or phone call), and always put yourself in the position of the recipient
  • CCs – we have all received emails where it seems as if the entire organization has been copied in. Don’t think this is a call for concern. It’s likely the case that remote working forces the need for everyone to be aware of things that they would ordinarily discuss in an office environment
  • When you are having a good day – share the love! We all need as much positivity and optimism as we can get at the moment! If you’re having a day when you’re feeling on top of the world, use that feeling to try and make someone else feel good. The fact that we are all in this together cannot be lost on anyone anymore.
  • Be kind. Take the time to ask someone if they’re ok and really listen to their answer.
  • Take a break from communication. I know that is much easier said than done, but if you can find some time in your day to step away from your screen, or put your phone down, take some time for you. It works wonders for the mind.

Some days are going to be darker than others, and that’s ok. Because the sun will keep rising every day, and we have the magical gift of communication which means that we can stay connected in a world that has been fragmented to an extreme none of us would have believed possible. So let’s use that magic power for the purpose of good, and help make everyone’s days as bright as they can be.