Monday, May 3, 2021

How to Better Understand Digital Body Language

As more of us prepare to move back into the office environment -- either permanently or on a more flexible basis -- we need to understand that Zoom calls and other forms of digital communication will become a permanent part of our career.

With that in mind, it's important to become more adept as understanding digital "cues" or "body language" that we observe through a camera lens or via text.

While this is far from an exact science, there is some understanding about what some cues may signal. Consider:

  • Providing affirmation in different ways. While speaking with someone in person or over Zoom, you may nod your head to signal understanding. But in a Slack conversation or via email, you may want to respond immediately with a statement such as: "I get completely what you're saying," or "I agree with your assessment of the situation." 
  • Organizing your thoughts. When you're meeting face-to-face, you may give a thoughtful look to the speaker to indicate you're thinking about their proposal or idea, perhaps even pausing a minute before responding. This shows that you're giving the idea real consideration. When you're responding online, you also need to show thoughtfulness by composing a reasoned message. Don't fire off a quick "got it, thx" or it could be seen as dismissive and rude.
  • Pay attention to non-verbal cues. Even though it's not in person, a Zoom call can provide some clues that someone is getting annoyed or bored during the call.  A person who crosses her arms or appears to be looking at her phone a lot may signal she's bored or becoming annoyed by the conversation. Or, rapid eye blinking or sighing may signal stress.
  • Pick up the phone. One of the biggest complaints about Zoom is that it always feels likes you're "on," which can be exhausting. It's also a pain to make sure you are dressed, have your hair combed and your kids aren't dancing in the background with the cat. (Cute, but distracting.) Instead, eliminate these problems -- and the miscommunication that can happen with emails and texts -- and instead have a phone conversation.

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