Of all the characteristics of relationships, communication is the most glorious. Certainly it is the alpha and omega: the first and last ‘word’ in the evolution of a relationship. It’s the invisible current of connection that is given and received meaningfully as long as the tie exists.
We usually think of communications as dialogue, but we must remember that communication can and very often does happen in the absence of words.
So what defines communication? It’s an exchange, a connection – the completing of a circuit. It’s discreet entities vibrating in response to one another.
Communications, though, a modern label for business standard procedure, may be understood somewhat differently. When you refer to communications, you mean the tools and routes by which exchanges take place, whether interpersonal, inter-office or department, within an industry or region, or whatever. It’s the general format, tenor, and culture of information exchange; it’s the protocols that keep the exchanges running smoothly and productively (or not).
Communications with an s has become increasingly important as we work digitally. What channels will best serve our goals and style? What tools will best serve our objective of (building community, selling products, establishing expertise, providing information …) ?
Note, though, that the best communications system in the world still doesn’t work as well as it should unless you’re also well-versed and enthusiastically involved in communication without the s as well.
That is, whatever you do, don’t neglect good old one-on-one getting-to-know-you. If it’s going to work for you over the long haul online, you’ll need to attain skill in conversation that
- is big on authenticity / honesty / flexibility
- involves huge chunks of listening – and incorporating what you hear!
- always returns to consideration for the other person
- always centers on strengthening the connection between you and others
- values relationships as central to success
Communication and communications are the twin pillars of the relationship between virtual assistant and client. (The VA apps that are proliferating lately exemplify what happens when you present communications with an s without the other kind.) Once a strong enough bond of communication is established, it becomes appropriate to set up systems for your communications, as well as a stated protocol for communications between VA and client.
As to the latter, this may be the single most important consideration in whether or not to proceed with a new VA-client liaison. There are no rules, but every relationship has to establish its expectations. You may be unpredictable, tuning in at odd hours without schedule; but that can work if I know to expect it from you and have figured out how to carry on unruffled. More reasonably, you might like to comment and message late at night so I know to expect your missives each morning; if this works in my schedule, we may become a team. If, though, daily assignments are contrary to my usual routine, such a communications setup wouldn’t satisfy.
Whatever your communications protocols, know them, know how flexible you want to be, and once you agree on a routine, do your best to follow it faithfully. Relationship wants to trust, and breaking communications agreements can cause major erosion.
When we work digitally, we are always hunting for close matches, for relationships that work well on both sides. The web allows us exponential expansion in ways to communicate, and that in turn brings us the chance to find just the right partners, customers, and connections.