Social mediaWhile it has many positive benefits, relying on technology and social media for so much of our communication can make it more difficult for people to form genuine relationships.

For all its convenience, you can’t fully ‘read’ people via an email/text/instant messaging. Plus it is much harder to convey real emotions and nuances across a screen, as messages are often truncated and devoid of personality – and emojis hardly fill the gap!

What’s more, with online communication, nothing is natural and immediate and many posts are perfected, polished and curated content as opposed to spur-of-the-moment speech. The danger of the emphasis being on online communication is that we might lose the ability to make conversation in the real world and find it more difficult to relate to one another as a result.

There will be times when we find ourselves at crossroads, maybe a lifestyle change, a time where we need to prove ourselves, be selected over others or when we need to articulate our opinion or defend our views, where the only option is real-world communication. When this is the case, we have to be able to speak fluently and adapt and flex our communication style according to what or who is in front of us. It’s then that we need real-life relationship skills and when all those hours of online communication are useless. If your main interactions are virtual, where you can take all the time you want to hone and edit your words, you may come unstuck face to face. It’s therefore crucial to maintain those skills so that you can make your point persuasively in the moment.

Whether real-life or online relationships suit us better, we need to be adept at both, as this is the way of the future.

Online communication works extremely well for many of us when it comes to finding our tribe. This is especially true of remote teams or the home-based business owner.

Here are some tips on building relationships virtually, whether via social media, instant messaging or email:

  1. Never say anything online that you wouldn’t say to someone face to face: remember it lives forever.
  2. Be accurate: it’s easy to overlook your grammar when your tapping on your smartphone, but many people will judge you for sloppy writing, especially in a professional context.
  3. Be careful with punctuation: CAPITAL LETTERS LOOK LIKE YOU’RE SHOUTING. And emojis or kisses could be misinterpreted, look childish and may undermine your credibility.
  4. Don’t be offended by short messages: often the most senior people in an organisation or people more used to verbal communication don’t ‘waste’ time on pleasantries. The best policy is to match their style.
  5. Set your own boundaries around the amount of time you spend on social media, including how quickly you respond to people’s posts and your levels of engagement. If you never comment on other people’s content, don’t expect them to comment on yours. But don’t overdo it, especially if your professional audience is online. If you’re constantly posting, sharing and commenting, people may wonder whether you ever do any work!

Antoinette Dale HendersonAbout the author

Antoinette Dale Henderson is a women’s leadership expert and the author of Power Up: The smart woman’s guide to unleashing her potential. To find out more go to:

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