Suggestions for Effective On-Line Communication

Computer conferencing is different than face-to-face communication. Tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, and body language are all absent. However, you may be surprised by how much comes through the words on the screen. Pay attention to the words you write and how they might be received.

The sense of time is also different than face-to-face. Here you communicate at your convenience. At times electronic communication can be very immediate and call for quick interactions. At others it can be slower if you're waiting for someone who isn't responding in a timely manner. Be aware of your small group's schedules and pace your participation to fit with them. Plan to check in and replicate regularly.

Another benefit of communicating at your convenience is that you can take time to reflect, think about what you want to say, gather additional information, or consult others as appropriate. You can use the built-in time delays to advantage.

Here are some suggestions to make your on-line communication more effective:

1. Follow the CIP norms and guidelines with regard to sharing information and comments from participants. Electronic mail sent to you personally is generally treated as private correspondence. In group activities, remember that each person's words are his or her own and are to be kept confidential unless you have explicit permission to do otherwise.

2. Participate thoughtfully in the scheduled activities and respond on time. It's easy to put off participation until it's most convenient for you, but you may miss scheduled rounds in the Circles or a rapidly unfolding conversation or timely news.

3. Let others in any of your small groups know when you will be traveling or otherwise unable to participate so they will not expect responses from you.

4. Don't worry about typos or misspellings. Getting your meaning across is the most important thing. Find a writing style for on-line communication that is most comfortable for you. It's oaky to make mitsakes <smile>. However, when you are sharing information, such as phone numbers or other data, please check your typing for accuracy so that we don't end up sharing misinformation :-).

5. Be careful with ironic or sarcastic humor which can be easily misinterpreted. When in doubt, indicate your humorous intent with something like <grin>, (chuckle), or :-) which is a sideways smile (or tongue-in-cheek).

6. Be explicit about whether you understand, agree, or disagree with what others have said. For example, "your second point really makes sense to me," or "I like the direction you're going, but please clarify what you mean by 'system' in this context." This substitutes for the nods, smiles, or puzzled facial expressions that help us understand each other in person.

7. If you have a strong reaction to something someone says, take a little time to reflect before you respond. Your words will still be on line long after the intensity of your feeling has passed.

8. As appropriate, use a separate item for each major topic of conversation, rather than writing one long item with many different points in it. This makes it easier to find specific items later on. Always enter something descriptive at Subject: to indicate what each one is about. Please use categories/keywords as well.

9. Use shorter paragraphs so there is plenty of "white space" in your items. Long, dense-looking items are harder to read on the screen than on paper, so others may not give them the attention they deserve. A possible exception is drafts of documents meant to be printed.

10. Avoid the use of tabs since you are composing text that others will read in windows they can size to taste. Tabs may interfere with the automatic wrap around of lines. Instead, use the ruler to indent paragraphs or first lines. While editing an item, select View - Ruler (Ctrl+R in Windows or Command+R on the Macintosh) to view the ruler.

11. Communicate electronically with others as you would have them communicate with you.

12. Follow the Four-Fold Way (Angeles Arrien):

From the 1996 Awakening Technology Community of Inquiry and Practice (CIP)
Content and Groupware Design 1996 Awakening Technology.

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From on 02/19/2017 ---- item last modified on 05/29/1997.