Communicating for many was tough before COVID and now it’s even harder. Jump on a call and often people choose not to start their video. Why? Maybe they are having a bad hair day. Maybe they are sharing their “office” with children or pets. They might be doing something else and don’t want you to know you do not have their undivided attention. No matter the reason, something important is missing. Non-verbal communication.
When it comes to the importance of non-verbal communication in business most people think about eye-contact, facial expression, posture and gestures. These are exaggerated when you are in the “box” of a virtual meeting. And, depending upon how you use non-verbal communication gestures they might not even be seen. To learn more about that check out my tips for remote meetings.
But nonverbal communication goes far beyond these things. Think about what physical distance used to say about our relationships. It used to be that most preferred about 18 inches of space around their physical person. If people got too close, it was uncomfortable. If they stayed too far away, we thought they did not like us or were avoiding contact.
Now, we have the 6-foot rule for in-person communication and the virtual world puts a lot more space between us. This virtual distance can and does impact our ability to communicate and do business, so you really do have to get eye contact and expression right.
What you wear and your appearance has always been an important non-verbal. I believe that, absent so many other clues, this becomes even more critical. In the current situation, being too formal might make you seem out of touch and not approachable. Too casual (no one wants to see you in sweats) and it might say you don’t care. Think about what you are trying to project because you might be sending the wrong message without even knowing it.
Peter Drucker said, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”
That’s what non-verbal signals are…the things you don’t say but that speak volumes. If you understand the importance of non-verbal communication in virtual meetings and within the new rules of a COVID world you can use it to your advantage. Or, you can fail to adapt and let it keep you from being a great communicator.
Think about it.
Cynthia Kay founded Cynthia Kay and Company media production 35 years ago. The company produces communications for organizations from Fortune Global 100 to small businesses. A graduate of Michigan State University, Kay holds a master’s in communications from Western Michigan University.
She is the Past Board Chair of the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) and the National Small Business Association (NSBA). Cynthia has been honored with many awards including numerous Tellys and Woman Owned Small Business Supplier of the Year from Siemens in 2018. She has been named One of West Michigan’s 50 Most Influential Women 5 times. She is also the recipient of over 30 broadcast awards from UPI, AP and other news organizations.