The art of effective communication is to understand that very often the words you hear aren’t what’s really being said or meant. Nowhere is this more true than online when the words you hear/read are through or on a screen and you can’t use other cues – body language, facial expressions etc. – to help interpret what’s actually being said…

  • It’s the colleague who always seems to disagree with your ideas, seemingly for no good reason other than to disagree.
  • It’s the same old argument with your co-founder which never seems to change and you become rooted in your polar positions.
  • It’s that familiar feeling of being treated like a small child rather than a professional adult when you’ve done something ‘wrong’ or your decision/opinion is being questioned.

If you frequently find yourself in situations, conversations or disagreements with people that feel familiar – and you’re finding it even harder to figure out what’s actually going on because all your communication is online and not in person, there are ways to address this effectively without coming across as antagonistic, aggressive, argumentative or similar.

Why address them at all?

Because when we don’t, it’s easy to fall into default patterns of (not) addressing situations in our life as they happen and instead, we keep quiet and then quietly seethe away in the background! The same situation keeps occurring and the resentment builds before the working relationship becomes untenable.

People with stand-out communication skills will always rise to the top; all other things – technical skills, work experience, business acumen being equal – the engineer/developer/product/customer service person who can communicate effectively which creates a collaborative, loving (yes, loving), and growth-focused environment will get better results than those who cannot.

Where to start…

Unhelpful patterns of communication include indirect, oblique, sarcastic and passive aggressive statements. And direct, head-on communication doesn’t have to be confrontational, angry or unpleasant (which is often the experience of people who find this difficult); in fact, it can be liberating, connecting and said with love and positive intentions. If the latter – loving communication, especially in business – is still a step too far, let’s just start with DIRECT, shall we?!

Here are a few examples – let’s call them scripts – of how to be more direct in your communication when it comes to potential flashpoints, that might usually be the start of an argument, a period of sulky silence and simmering resentment…

What’s Happening…

For the colleague who always appears difficult – to whom you’d love to say: “You’re so bloody difficult to work with, why can’t you just get over yourself and see I’m only trying to help?”…


When you’re facing someone’s anger but you’re unsure what’s happened, and want to avoid more anger…


If a control freak won’t let you do your job, and/or you need to ask help to do something yourself and don’t want someone to do it for you…


When someone’s behaviour isn’t what you want to encourage in your company; especially if it’s someone in a position of power/a co-founder or in a leadership position…

What Might Help…

“Things often feel really difficult between us. I’d love to find a way to work better together so we’re both happier. Do you think there are ways for us to do that?”


“It sounds like you’re really angry about something. Do you know what it is you’re angry about?”


“I so appreciate your support; I’d love to be able to do this for myself going forwards, could you help me/show me how to do that?”


“I’d love to talk about the kind of role models we’re being and how we can be more conscious about that for the rest of the team. For me, it’s important that…what’s most important for you?”

The words you use have POWER and INFLUENCE. The choice of what impact you want to have in any situation where you’re communicating online and off is yours…choose your words carefully!