I use Instant Messaging (IM) a lot in my job to manage my team and connect with friends. I love it because I have the unparalleled advantage of multi-tasking different conversations with so many people at once. Of course, it does have a few drawbacks, but overall, I still think it’s a valuable tool in the arsenal of online communication – particularly for couch managers.
However, there is one pet peeve that most individuals share when using online chat: Silence
I’m not referring to the natural pauses that occur during a normal back & forth online conversation, but rather to the (sometimes intentional) disappearing act that people choose to do after reading an IM message.
Here’s a typical online chat session:
Person A: Hey!
Person B: Hey, what’s up?
Person A: Nothing much, things are going great so far
<Some more small talk>
Person A: Quick question. Regarding the budget report and status update we discussed last week, I wanted to follow up on where we stand with that. Do you have something you’d like to share before our meeting this afternoon? I don’t feel I have all the info I need before discussing them with the client.
Person B: *Silence* (for quite a while)
Person A: Still there??
Person B: *More Silence*
So basically, Person A starts making assumptions and acting upon those assumptions, and that almost always leads to miscommunication issues.
Here are 3 lessons learned for Person B to save everyone time and frustration:
- If you’ve read the message, for the love of God, type out what you’re thinking. Even if you’re hesitant to answer, a simple “Let me think about it,” or “I’ll get back to you” would be much more appreciated compared to the agonizing feeling of wondering whether you read the message or not.
- If you haven’t read the message, then type a quick “brb” before stepping out or set your status to automatically update to “Busy” or “Away.”
- If you got disconnected while in the middle of a chat conversation, a courteous follow up with a call or email to let Person A know you might have missed a message would help a lot. Surprisingly, with all the technology we have to date, a lot of those IM clients don’t always update your online/ offline status in real time, so one can’t always tell if you dropped off before you got the last message.