I was on a zoom call the other day and everyone else was choppy but my screen was fine. Initially I thought that it must be a problem with everyone else. After a few minutes my peers in the meeting let me know that I had been frozen and the message hadn’t gotten through. In fact the problem was my connection!
Zoom communication breakdowns are not so dissimilar to communication in real life. Sometimes we think that someone is being stroppy with us, when in fact they are just reflecting back the energy we are putting out. Due to our tiredness or stresses we might be putting out a negative energy without even being aware that that is what we are doing.
Like the zoom call, we perceive everything from our own perception and mindset. We can’t see what others are seeing of us - so we don’t know how our message is being transmitted.
There are 3 ways that communication can be confused in a zoom call.
There might be a problem with our connection and the way we are transmitting our message.
There might be a problem with someone else’s connection - and actually they are freezing because of a problem with their internet or computer.
Multiple individuals might have their own unique problems with their zoom causing an absolute shamozal of communication breakdowns!
When issues happen with zoom we’re very understanding of each other as it’s a new technology that we’re all getting a handle of. We ask questions like, “is it just me, or is your screen frozen?” or “Sorry, but everyone is a bit frozen, have I been disconnected?” When breakdowns happen in our real-life communication sometimes we’re not as forgiving. Our minds and bodies aren’t this new technology that we’re all getting a handle on. However we are all learning how to better understand ourselves and each other.
So how do you fix the real life equivalents?
Check in, perhaps the breakdown in communication is because of you and you're not aware of it. Like the problem with zoom your first step would be to check the hardware (i.e. wifi, computer etc.) So in life it might be worth checking your hardware (sleep, exercise, diet and stress levels).
Work within your sphere of control. Depending on our circumstances we can control our diet, exercise routine and sleep. These have a huge impact on our mood and the way we relate to others.
If you don’t have control of some of these circumstances - say you have a newborn child, or something else that prevents you from greater control (such as a medical condition) - maybe try communicating this to your friends, team or a trusted supervisor to see if there are supports that could be provided. If you can communicate it, hopefully your team will be more empathetic and supportive.
This situation might fall out of your sphere of control. Something might be happening in their life that is completely not connected to you. If this is the case, it can be helpful to check in with them as you might get some clarity about how you can communicate in a different way.
Like a zoom call, you might need to work around the issue (i.e. they can call in using their mobile). If something is happening for them, together you might develop further support structures (i.e. regular meetings, see if they want counselling, or even just a casual chat once a week.)
So let’s be easy on one another with our communication breakdowns! Through checking in (like we would on zoom) we can very quickly decipher what is going on. It also helps us to become better communicators and more attentive listeners.
If you’re interested in miscommunication and how it happens, this is a great video that explains how our subjective experiences of the world shape how we interpret the information we receive in a conversation. They also include 4 ways to improve communication!
If you’re interested in how our internal emotional landscape affects others, this is a great article on how a leader's emotional state can affect the mood of their entire team!