We communicate with more than our words. Even though our communication is becoming increasingly more virtual, we still rely heavily on nonverbal cues.
A roll of the eye to indicate a joke, a wave of the hand to add emphasis — all of these subtle forms of speech are necessary to effectively convey a message to someone else. And it’s a part of speech that is often forgotten when speaking to someone through a screen. How you say something still matters. Although it may feel less personal, the person you’re speaking with can still see you!
If you’re looking to become a stronger communicator, the first place to look might be at your own body language. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Make Eye Contact
Making eye contact with someone is an important part of connecting. We instinctively look into someone’s eyes when we’re trying to understand what they’re saying.
If you were speaking to someone who was constantly looking over your shoulder, you’d feel a little eked out. You’d wonder, What is going on back there? Is something about to happen? Or, if you were talking to someone and they whipped out their phone to take a selfie, you’d be… unimpressed. So why do we think doing the same things on our laptops is okay?
On video, you can make someone feel like you’re making eye contact by looking at or addressing your camera. If you’re like our team, that likely means you’ll need to prop up your laptop or webcam on a pile of books so that the lens is near your eye level. If you use multiple screens in your home office setup, make sure your online meeting is on the screen that holds the camera. Don’t worry about holding eye-contact constantly (it’s not a staring contest), but giving a teammate about six seconds of contact should be enough to establish a feeling of connection.
- Talk With Your Hands
According to a study detailed in the Washington Post, most “viral” speakers use an average of over 460 hand gestures — nearly twice as many as less popular speakers. Moving your body provides a more dynamic understanding of what you’re saying. Ask a fisherman on the phone how big a fish they caught was, and they’ll tell you it was huge. Ask him in person, and they’ll throw their arms out to show you.
To help bring a little more life to your digital conversations, try to set the camera back a little bit on your desk so that your upper body is visible. Position your torso in the center of the frame and check and see if your hands extend beyond the borders of your screen – if so, move your camera back a little bit more!
- Practice Your Posture
The confidence-boosting benefits of power poses are no lie. By placing your body in a position where it feels powerful — say, in a “Wonder Woman” pose where you place your hands squarely on your hips and stare defiantly ahead — you can trick yourself into actually feeling more confident.
You can bring this practice to your virtual life. While sitting at your desk, keep your shoulders back and your arms open. Straighten that back — not only will you likely feel less back pain, but you’ll also get a little punch of confidence. (Additionally, if you’re able to, you may consider upgrading your home office with a standing desk. A member of our team swears by it.)
- Be an Active Listener
It can be nerve-wracking to deliver a presentation or to lead a discussion in a virtual environment. All the clues that help someone measure the engagement of their audience becomes harder to see. What looks like someone taking notes could be someone composing a grocery list — you just never know.
Help others by being an active listener. We mean this literally — take small actions to show that you’re following along. As silly as it may feel to nod along to a screen, a simple gesture like this will signal to your colleague or friend that you’re listening and interested in what they have to say.
As much of our lives continued to be lived onscreen, we hope that you use these tips to level-up your communication and connect with those in your work and personal lives. Do you have any additional hacks or insights? We’d love to hear them in the ONE Thing Community on Facebook.