How to Adopt a Shared Language with Your Virtual Team

Effective communication is the cornerstone of great relationships and successful interactions – especially in the workplace. Virtual teams struggle in the efforts to communicate effectively all the time because of the diversity of their team in regards to upbringing, personality, education and/or language barrier. With developing a shared language being a critical component of collaboration, virtual team members must work that much harder to ensure that they are understanding and being understood by their colleagues.

Here are a few crucial considerations to adopt a shared language and encourage effective communication for your virtual team:

  1. Speak plainly with each other. Different people have their own way of communicating, so one person’s definition of a word might not be another’s. If you must use any kind of colloquialisms, euphemisms or other jargon, explain what these phrases mean so that there is no risk of confusion. Virtual teams should always seek to talk with one another despite their differences and background. This will help individuals learn the tone of voice, the meaning behind words and how one’s culture impacts the way they communicate with the group.
  2. Use the diversity of your team to your benefit. Our personal knowledge on matters can get us in trouble when we try to assimilate our experiences and knowledge in a group effort. The beautiful thing about virtual teams is that there can be so many differing ideas and perspectives – all that can be used to positively affect a project. Appreciating the opinions and experiences of others is helpful to create a shared language simply by listening and learning.
  3. Understanding leads to trust and commitment. This not only works for team members, but also customers and clients. Understanding that what resonates with one person may be totally lost on another is something that any and every professional should acknowledge. By placing yourself in someone else’s shoes, it can help you stay mindful of how someone is receiving your technique and approach and adjust your process accordingly.
  4. Incorporate visuals whenever possible. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words and to ensure that individuals are really able to understand the goals and processes of your group, it can be a helpful device. Interactive mind mapping, charts and graphs can help guide the group toward goals and provide a creative outlet for them to communicate their needs or status on a project.

In conjunction with patience, respect, collaboration and behavior, adopting a shared language will help teams communicate effectively and sidestep some of the pitfalls that are present when working on a virtual team. It is a never-ending learning process, but it can be the difference between missing the mark on an assignment and having outstanding, successful collaborative experience with your team.