Body Language In Digital Times

digital communication

If you want to communicate effectively in the virtual age, you need to tune into your digital body language.

Digital communication in virtual times

In times of zoom calls, online meetings, video conferences, Microsoft Teams, Skype, etc. our communication gets more and more digital. Written communication opens the door for a lot of misunderstandings.

We all keep on sending and texting through communication platforms and tools. Every day, everybody sends an unbelievable amount of messages – professional and private ones. No wonder that there’s a lot of potential for misinterpretation.

Around 306 billion emails are exchanged each day: an average person sends 30 and receives 96. According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the tonality in and of our emails is misinterpreted more than 50 percent of the time!

Silent language in written communication

Our confusion comes down to the fact that we’re cue-less – namely in the most literal sense to think of.

Those nonverbal cues – things like eye contact, smiles, pauses, yawns, tone, volume, posture, and proximity – are essential in in-person communication. We all know the expression: a look is worth a thousand words. Linguists talk about “the silent language.”.

Now think of a typical workday. 8 hours and probably a lot of texting via chat tools like Microsoft Teams. Sure, the tone in a text to your boss differs completely from a random message you’ve sent to one of your colleagues. But in any case, silent language is not visible from behind a screen. You will not use any kind of emoji when writing something formal. So how to close this gap between intention and interpretation in the digital world? It gets bigger by the online disinhibition effect, which occurs when people express themselves with a level of informality they would never entertain offline.

Social distance and its effect on communication in virtual times

How does all this affect the new work, where roughly 70 percent of communication among teams is virtual; Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when virtual or online socialization is more frequent than face-to-face meetups?

Universal digital body language

As both, our professional and personal lives become more and more digitized, we no longer have traditional body language to help facilitate understanding – and our communication (as well as productivity and morale) is suffering as a result.

Four key principles

To reduce friction and banish confusion, people need to establish a universal digital body language based on four core principles: valuing visibly, communicating carefully, collaborating confidently, and trusting totally.

Implementing these behaviors with awareness and openness will lead to adaptive, resilient bonds that thrive across genders, generations, and cultures. 

Virtual watercooler moments 

We face many changes when we transition to remote work and become part of the new work’s lifestyle. But research show and prove that we mostly miss spontaneous social interactions:

  • Walking by someone’s desk and greet him.
  • Asking a preoccupied colleague whether she’s OK.
  • Showing new photos of the baby on the way to the printer.
  • Dissecting that Netflix episode together while waiting for the coffee machine.

These kinds of watercooler moments are crucial for building camaraderie and trust, while also helping to keep a finger on the pulse of our workplace. So what do you do in the absence of an actual watercooler? It’s easy: create online time to hang out and shoot the shit – five to ten minutes at the start of a team meeting can do the trick!

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