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Body Language

Dom Kennedy said, 'I can read your body language like a conversation'- but can we do that over Zoom?

Nik Peachey shared an interesting infographic on body language across cultures today on LinkedIn and I was struck by how physical contact, (or lack of it) and facial /body expressions are so key to our understanding of how people are feeling when we talk to them.

In the world before COVID, I used Skype and Whatsapp to talk to friends and colleagues when we couldn't meet face to face. I preferred to get on a plane or train and go to different places all over the world to meet them in person- in their offices, in restaurants, over a table at fairs. Seeing their faces when we talked, reading their body language- arms folded meant 'not really interested', as did looking at their watch...but leaning forward, engaging my gaze and responding enthusiastically meant 'yes, we are making a connection, we might be able to work together because potentially we like each other and think our businesses might be a good match .'

But what about now in our new world of virtual meetings- through Zoom, Teams, can we pick up the important cues we need to communicate with each other? During an online fair I attended recently, I met people who had slow internet connections so didn't respond quickly to verbal cues or whose faces froze so we were both left staring at each other not sure whether to go on or not. And at the end of two days of meetings I was more tired than I can ever remember from meeting face to face. Gianpiero Petriglieri, a management professor at Insead, tweeted recently why we might have felt like that:

So, how can we read body language online in a way that enhances our communication? I think it comes down to being patient and understanding.....and above all, kind. Kind to each other- not judging people by their expression (or lack of it) over the airwaves, giving people the benefit of the doubt- and kind to ourselves- doing our best to appear positive and open but acknowledging that we are all in the same position. We are all trying to keep relationships going in difficult circumstances- not sure when our market will recover or what it will look like when it does. But we are in it together and together we will pull through.

What are your thoughts? What do you find hard about communciating online?


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