Remote work and virtual meetings. Does that ring any bells?
Shifting from an office environment to a home office has become commonplace for many of us, but how do we interpret body language while using online communication? This relatively new terminology is also called “Digital body language” which is the study of cues and signals we use in digital communication.
Office body language is invisible at first glance because most of us do it unknowingly. We use it to communicate via email, messenger, chat, or conference calls. Learning to read body language cues while working from home can have a significant impact on your career success. Some physical cues may be more difficult to interpret over video or phone calls, but there are still lots of subtle indicators that can help you gain a better understanding of your colleagues, clients, and your own personal emotions and intentions.
Most of us have been decoding body language since our childhood and are skilled in basic communication. As we continue through life’s journey our awareness and body language skills develop.
Fast forward to today.
Many of us are now working from home and interacting digitally via virtual meetings or online conferences, our traditional methods for reading body language are no longer reliable.We need to refine our digital body language skills or at best reacquaint ourselves with basic body language techniques.
Have you ever sent an email and received a curt one-word reply? What was meant as a simple non-angry reply was misinterpreted by you.
We make assumptions without decoding the tone of the message.
Having the skills to decode non-verbal cues during a meeting or engagement can help you form better and more meaningful relationships with those you interact with and assist to understand the challenges and opportunities of modern communication.
Identifying intricate body language can also help alleviate issues within group dynamics. They can be addressed without delay and any misunderstandings or conflicts can be resolved. Training, and in many cases retraining, is an essential tool to increase awareness and better engage with others using digital communication.
Virtual meetings and online conferences have become increasingly commonplace. It’s essential for professionals to learn how to interpret body language and facial expressions to communicate effectively with clients and colleagues.
Recognizing body language cues can enable you to adjust your communication during virtual conversations. A simple example of body language might be noticing a colleague shifting their stance in a repetitive fashion or they have the appearance of being uncomfortable during a conference call. Having keen awareness and valuable knowledge can then be incorporated to create better communication and understanding between participants.
Here is what to look out for when trying to decode office body language while working from home
It is difficult to accurately decode office body language while working from home without training and practice. Working hybrid or remotely has become the new normal and understanding each other’s emotions and physical cues is a challenge. To better understand your colleagues and clients, it is essential to note certain behaviors that can help you interpret their feelings during an online meeting.
- Pay close attention to facial expressions, particularly eyes, eyebrows, and lips.
- Facial expressions such as smiling, frowning, and the direction in the eyes are focused can provide clues about someone’s emotions.
- Cues such as a nodding head or crossed arms when someone speaks can signal agreement or disagreement respectively.
- Pay close attention to pauses and silences in conversation. These may indicate discomfort with the topic at hand or confusion about what was being said.
- Know the language capabilities of attendees, as body language cues may be the result of not understanding words, phrases, humor, or euphemisms.
- Company-specific jargon may affect the body language cues of new employees.
Make sure that your home office setup does not distract the people who you have video meetings with. If so, you may start interpreting signals that have other causes. Make sure that you have a clean background for your home office.
Decoding Body Posture & Movements
As many of us shift to a more virtual environment, decoding body posture and movement are more important than ever. We are relying much more on video conferencing, online meetings, and phone calls. For some, this was a new medium of communication that we have mastered.
Now we need to learn how to interpret body language and upskill our current basic knowledge. Through training, learning, and practice we are able to distinguish cues that are visible through video chats and are made conscious of our own nonverbal communication. This gives valuable insight into our interactions with others.
Decoding body language virtually requires an understanding of postures, facial expressions, and hand gestures that are common during virtual conversations and meetings. Body language can provide us with a wealth of information that may not be communicated verbally.
Take a moment to practice during your next conference call.
You may like to involve others in this fun training session.
Keep it simple and tally what you observe.
- Head tilts signal of engagement — while a slow deliberate head withdrawal is a sign of disengagement.
- Head ducks express discomfort.
- Heads held high or low send a message about confidence.
- Head nods send different messages depending on their speed.
- Facial touching often signals agreement. It can also signal a non-truth (wiping fingers close to eyes).
- Chin jutting is a sign of anger.
Gaining a better understanding of body language goes beyond awareness – it requires practice.
Decoding Facial Expressions & Tone
In today’s world of remote work, whether it’s in an online meeting or casual conversation over video chat, being able to accurately decipher emotions and intentions will enable you to better collaborate with others. Decoding facial expressions and tone is an important tool for professionals working from home.
Having these skills gives you the ability to communicate more effectively with colleagues and clients and ensure successful online interactions. Learning the subtle nuances of facial expressions and vocal inflections helps provide insight into what others are thinking, feeling, and saying. This takes practice.
When attempting to decode facial expressions and tone consider the context of the conversation as well as the individual involved. Even though a person may not be physically present during an online meeting, their words and tone can still convey enthusiasm or displeasure. Pay attention to vocal inflection, abruptness or hesitancy in speech, intonation, and volume; These factors are important cues when trying to decode.
Watch a short video of online interaction between you and a coworker. Study the video and observe the interaction.
What did you see?
- Wide eyes signal approval and pleasing surprise.
- If people are emotionally aroused by what they see, their pupils dilate.
- Blinking rates increase under pressure.
- Closing eyes is a form of eye blocking.
- Tearing eyes signal high emotion.
- Raising the eyebrows may be a sign of submission or a request for approval.
- Smiles can be real or fake.
- Tight lips are almost always associated with negative emotions.
- Swallowing shows anxiety or stress.
Listening & Interpreting the body language from home
Understanding office body language has become an important tool for effective communication, especially In the new era of virtual meetings. Working from home has given us a unique opportunity to decode body language in a virtual way.
Taking the time to practice our own body language techniques during a virtual meeting also helps us communicate more effectively with our colleagues. We learn insight into feelings and emotions that are often difficult to interpret over an online platform. Body language can indicate agreement or disagreement with someone.
To get started, reading body language when working from home requires focus. Pay close attention to speech and listen carefully to what is being said.
Do they speak clearly?
Can they easily convey their message?
Additionally, note if they interrupt when others are speaking or if they remain passive.
Studying facial expressions at this time can also help you understand whether someone is feeling positive or negative towards your message.
Try this activity during a phone call with a friend or colleague
An important part of learning active listening skills is being able to comprehend what is heard within a specific topic.
Scaffold your note-taking by chunking (grouping) the important topics covered during the conversation.
- Pay attention to the speaker for verbal (louder or higher pitched inflections)
- Be consistent in your use of form, abbreviations, etc. (key your abbreviations).
- Make a conscious effort to concentrate on what the speaker is saying.
- Document your emotional reaction to the subject matter.
- Label important points and organizational clues: main points, examples.
- When possible, translate the conversation into your own words
- Ask questions if you don’t understand.
- Listen carefully to information given and highlight main points
Conclusion: How to decode and succeed with virtual meetings from home
Virtual meetings from home don’t have to be a source of dread and confusion. Practice what you have learned from this article and try the suggested activities. Take time to familiarize yourself with the current technology you’ll be using for your meeting. Whether it’s Zoom or another type of video conferencing platform, ensure everyone knows how to use it before getting started with your meeting. This will alleviate stress, and create a comfortable, professional environment.
Make sure you have a reliable internet connection, a quiet place free from distractions, and understand technical problem-solving.
You’re ready to try out your new office body language decoding skills.
My name is Frederik
I am a passionate marketeer who loves the freedom that comes with working from home whenever I choose to do so.
I love getting nerdy with every single detail about making everything related to my home just a tiny bit better.
That is what motivates me to write about home stuff on this blog.