Topic 1 Collaborative Communication

When communicating online, especially without seeing someone’s face and reactions to the delivered message, many people tend to forget some of their usual manners and politeness. If someone is not directly affected by their counterpart’s reactions, they tend to be more direct and, in some situations, even rude. At the same time, people often tend to not make up any lies when writing emails or otherwise written messages, as such ways of communication always carry the feeling of being “recorded” and serving as proof for lies.

This topic revolves around proper online etiquette (also called “Netiquette”), especially in collaborative settings and what kind of manners should be accustomed by, especially when communicating digitally.

Despite common belief, online etiquette differs from the usual face-to-face etiquette we show when interacting with someone. Online communication, especially when without being able to see someone’s face or hear their voice, provides many communication issues which can be interpreted in the wrong way. Therefor it is essential to apply the proper etiquette and rules when communicating online.

  1. Be respectful: It might sound like a given fact for communication in general but as experience shows, people tend to be more respectful when interacting face-to-face with someone while unconsciously applying less respect when writing a message to someone. Most people would not scream someone when standing right in front of them but are fast to write in all capital letters in an email, which amounts to the same thing. Therefor it is important to still be respectful when interacting through written text and digital tools.
  2. Stick to the message: When holding a speech or giving someone an explanation in person, the speaker can use intonation, breathing breaks, laughing or other ways to bring life to their speech. When delivering a message online, it is all shown as plain text. When delivering a message, it is important to stick to the actual message and not flood the receiver with text, which might end in confusion and misunderstanding.
  3. Be careful with capital letters and exclamation points: Often we use exclamation points and capital letters to replace the missing intonation of actual face-to-face conversation. But even when hearing the actual intonation, the sender and receiver might interpret a message differently. This issue is even bigger with capital letters and exclamation points. The reader of the message might interpret the writing style in a different way than the sender, feeling offended and hurt. Thus, this can lead to misunderstandings and confrontation between colleagues.
  4. Grammar and spelling: Everyone makes grammar and spelling mistakes once in a while but, especially in today’s time of Social Media, people are inclined to use shortenings like “imo” (in my opinion), “brb” (be right back) and others to shorten their time for writing. In a professional, educational or otherwise a setting not within the family or close friends, such shortenings have absolutely no place. They seem insincere, unprofessional and lazy and should only be used with friends, family or in situations where there is a common understanding and acceptance of using such shortenings (if both parties previously agreed to using such grammar/spelling in a face-to-face setting).
  5. Be careful when using emojis: People tend to use emojis to show their meaning behind a sentence, sometimes to underline their humor, show their anger or highlight their confusion about the matter. In general it is not always inappropriate to use emojis in a professional setting but it is important to know the receiver and purpose of the message. If both parties have a common understanding and deem the situation comfortable enough to use emojis, the use of such is no problem. In other situations, it might be inappropriate, offending and unprofessional to use emojis. It is advised not to use emojis with people you have never met face-to-face, in first time interactions and when you are still using polite speech with someone. If you are unsure whether to use emojis or not, it is advised to refrain from doing so.
  6. Privacy matters: It sounds like a simple and given matter but is still important. Do not share or post messages from someone else with a third party without permission.
  7. Be forgiving: Not everyone may know these etiquette rules before sending their message. Be forgiving when reading someone’s message and be open to the possibility of there being misunderstandings. If you think you misunderstood something, it is best to ask the sender about it and ensure the message was interpreted correctly. By doing this, you also give them a chance to reflect on their messages for the future.

In general, it is advised to read a written message out loud for yourself before sending it. You might realize that some parts seem too strong, rude or inappropriate in another way. And this allows you to change the message before sending.

Materials: internet access and electronical device for everyone to check their emails/work chat

The participants are asked to check their last three messages / written interactions to their colleagues or work partners. They are asked to analyse their last three emails regarding the 7 rules identified for online etiquette:

-Be respectful

-Stick to the message

-Capital letters and exclamation points

-Grammar and spelling

-Use of emojis

-Privacy matters

-Be forgiving

Did they adhere to online etiquette? What can they improve on? Have they misinterpreted someone’s reply without counting the possibility of misinterpretation?

Netiquette I

The participants are asked to share their experiences with online etiquette:

  • Have they ever experienced situations where they misinterpreted someone’s message?
  • Have their own messages ever been misinterpreted?
  • Has someone explained online etiquette to them and their colleagues before?

The trainer asks them for reasons why someone might be more rude and direct in written communication, compared to face-to-face interactions.

Netiquette III

Materials: 3 coloured paper sheets, white paper cards, markers

The coloured paper sheets are put into three categories:

Online work chat | Email | Digital face-to-face (video chat).

The participants are then asked to write down what kind of communication rules are allowed in each of the three settings. They can write their ideas down on the white paper cards and put them on the coloured paper sheets.

Example: “Using emojis” can be put up for the online work chat but should not be included in the emails and are less needed when the interaction is already face-to-face.

This topic highlights the importance of using proper wording, grammar and terminology when interacting digitally, especially in written interaction and how choosing the wrong type of etiquette can result in misunderstandings and miscommunication and end digital collaboration.