Think back to the time you’d spend with your coworkers in person.
Spending most of our time with the people we relied on to finish projects and conducted business with helped us learn their body language and social cues.
You could probably sense your boss was having a bad or off day without speaking to him or her. A particular look, body position or way of reacting to your wave hello would speak volumes.
The majority of us don’t have the luxury of those in-person cues now that remote working has become the new normal. But if you pay close attention on your next Zoom call, there are nonverbal cues we can all still pick up on virtually that can help us decipher how best to approach coworkers and clients.
Here are just a few nonverbal cues to keep an eye out for on your next video call, email interaction or work messenger chat.
1. Arm positioning
Of course, there will always be those video call participants who angle their camera just close enough to cut out any view of their arms or hands. But the next time you find yourself on a call where you can see others’ arm positioning, pay attention to how they appear.
If arms are crossed, this could signify that the person is not receptive to the information being suggested on the call. If the person is not using any hand or arm movements, this can be perceived as a sign of indifference. The later these meetings occur, the more likely it may be that arm positions and movements are less frequent or overt.
If someone on the call who’s relying on hand gestures to get their point across, this could be intentional. Hand gestures leveraged at strategic points of a presentation or conversation can help emphasize a specific idea or suggestion they’re communicating. If you see this used on your next call, it may be beneficial to bring up this point during your next meeting with the person, which’s considered important to them.
2. Lip positioning
Is there a participant on your call who continues to keep their lips pursed?
If you notice this behavior suddenly or through the duration of the call, it could indicate that this person has something to contribute but keeps getting interrupted or hasn’t been allowed to add to the conversation.
If you’re running the meeting, asking if they have any thoughts to share or inviting their feedback can go a long way in building and strengthening your virtual rapport.
If you haven’t heard this term before, chances are you’ve seen it used by a CEO, department head or another authority figure during a virtual conference but didn’t know the name for it.
Steepling is when a person takes both hands and presses their fingertips into each other, forming what looks like a steeple. If the person on your call is doing this as they’re speaking or listening, it indicates that they feel a sense of authority over the subject at hand.
Identifying steepling from others on a work call can help know where they stand on an issue, but it can also be used to communicate your confidence on video calls.
If you’re not sure how a certain video call or interaction is going, one nonverbal cue that can both help indicate the tone – and help you shift it – is mimicking.
We subconsciously mimic the movements of people we like and admire. If you notice someone on your video call mirroring your body movements, it can be a sign that the call is going well and that this person respects you.
Similarly, consciously reflecting a person on a video call can help you subconsciously put them at ease – which may make that weekly standing meeting you typically dread a lot more palatable.
Still having trouble reading the digital room? Give these tips a try:
1. Disable the view of yourself on video calls
How can you observe nonverbal cues when you’re too concerned with your appearance?
This quick change will help keep you focused on others rather than yourself.
2. Increase your video view space
Being too close in view to your camera can be overwhelming for other participants.
Instead, zoom out, so you’re more than just a floating head on your next video conference call, and take note of the difference it makes in how others interact with you.
3. Don’t take virtual interactions too personally
That’s not to say you should allow video participants to mistreat you or continually speak to you rudely or unpleasantly.
But as we continue to conduct business out of our personal spaces, it’s worth considering that perhaps a coworker or client’s mood on a particular day may have nothing to do with you – and everything to do with an interaction that happened at home before the meeting.
However, if you continue to find yourself having negative experiences with a certain coworker or client, it may be worth bringing up to your superior or HR.