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They say that non-verbal cues are the most telling indicators of face-to-face communication. Looking out for them in work-from-home environments is a little trickier, but they’re there nonetheless.
Since many are new to video conferencing, it might also be helpful overall to improve your body language in Zoom calls, just like how one might mindfully push your shoulders back or leave your hands out of your pockets during face-to-face meetings. Research shows that during video conferences, people are more focused on how likable a speaker is than the arguments they present.
Just like in real life, eye contact in video meetings is important as it signifies how trustworthy you are. However, you’ll be looking down at your screen in an attempt to meet the eyes of your recipients.
One way to get around this is to look at your device’s lens to simulate looking in the other person’s eyes. Carol Kinsey Goman, a leadership strategy expert and president of Kinsey Consulting Services, also recommended in a Forbes article to raise or lower your computer screen so that this feels more natural and that you can take quick glances at the other participants’ reactions.
As shared by John Boitnott of Inc., a person who goes from sitting up straight to slouching might be bored, but it’s also possible that they could be getting comfortable.
It’s natural to slouch and round your shoulders in front of your computer, but Goman said doing so can make you appear less confident and diminish your leadership presence, so you might want to be mindful of your posture even during virtual conferences too.
Images might appear slower in video conferences, but do look out for subtle gestures as these reactions are usually subconscious and more telling of a person’s thoughts on what you have just said. According to Boitnott, an oh-so-slight nod can mean genuine agreement, while a little tilt of the head can indicate bafflement or disagreement. Also watch out for fidgeting or a light drumming of fingers on the table, as this can mean boredom, distraction, or nervousness.
Some participants might engage in certain forms of self-soothing behavior during video calls, such as twirling their hair and playing with their jewelry, which can translate to a lack of confidence.
Backchannels, basically those nods, “uh-huhs” and “mm-hmms” you sometimes get in real-life conversations, are important in showing that someone has heard what you said. Katie Fitzpatrick, a sign language interpreter and adjunct professor in American sign language at Madonna University, told Fast Company that it is especially challenging to express your thoughts during virtual meetings, so do incorporate backchannels in your video conferences to denote that you understand the speaker’s message.
Fitzpatrick also noted that in online meetings, backchannels don’t always mean that a person agrees with you, but that they “understand and show acknowledgement of what’s being said.”
While not exactly telling of a person’s thoughts, it’s common for people to get too close to their screens during video meeting—and ultimately magnify every expression they make. Do ensure to keep some whitespace around you and that you’re not captured at an awkward angle.
Are you guilty of these common mistakes? For more body language advice, here’s a nifty infographic on signs of dishonesty whether in online conferences or in real life.
[via various sources, cover image via Shutterstock]