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8/11/2006
12:22 PM
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Why We Fail to Collaborate

To get our points across, do we need to develp a new way of communicating when we use online collaboration tools?  After talking to literally thousands of knowledge workers about this, and studying how they communicate (or fail to communicate), the answer is a resounding "YES."  Since we communicate more and more via text, it is becoming increasingly important to get one's thoughts across as intended.  Let's look at what we can do in our daily comunications.
      
One might enquire, why would people, who in face-to-face meetings have no trouble getting the message across, have trouble when communicating online?  The answer, in part, is tone.  By this, I mean a strong tone versus a weak tone in text conversation.  What's strong? "Immediately."  What's weak? "As soon as possible."

A side-by-side comparison makes this quite clear:

Strong phrases              Weak phrases
"Yes"                            "Sounds ok" "Guess so"
"I am"                           "I think I am"
"Accomplished"            "Done"
"Immediately"q             "As soon as possible"
"The way to go is"        "Perhaps we should"
"I will" "I shall"              "I suppose I could"
"I'm convinced"            "I hope that"
"No"                             "Perhaps we can find some other way"

Further, if you are unsure as to whether the other person understands what you are saying, a restatement using slightly different language will serve to clarify.  If you are unsure of what the other person is saying, you should paraphrase back what you believe that person is saying and ask for confirmation.

While I can't promise that this is a cure-all, being aware of "tone" in conversation and the use of strong phrases will result in better overall collaboration and communication.     

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