How many virtual meetings have you had this week? There is a lot of talking going on, but how much are we communicating? Communication is two-way. The measure of effective communication is the response that you get. The same principles of communication apply to both virtual and in person conversations; however, there are just a few nuances when you are not face-to-face.
When you are interacting with someone it is important that you do as much, if not more, listening than talking. This is true whether it is with a customer, coworker, or a family member. Actively listening and acknowledging what is being said tells the other person that you respect them and what they have to say. You do not have to agree 100% with what is being said. You do need to respect that each person has a right to their opinions.
The majority of our communication is non-verbal. Virtual interactions have made it a little more challenging to read and give non-verbal cues. Here are a few things you can do to make sure your verbal and non-verbal communication are effective:
- Be close to your camera. Your face should be the main thing people see, not the cabinet behind you. Watch your posture. Slouching back tells me you are bored. Raised shoulders and a frown tell me you are tense and possibly angry.
- Look directly into the camera. In person, you want to make eye contact with the other party. Looking at the speaker tells them you are interested in them and what they have to say. Looking at a screen to your left instead of into the camera makes me wonder if your email is more important than our conversation. Checking out the ceiling tells me you are bored and not listening.
- Smile at the person you are speaking with. Nod your head and repeat back what was said to acknowledge that you really heard them.
- Ask a question to get more details and more information. Then ask more questions. Smile and allow the other person time to answer. A pause for a few seconds is OK.
- With many people working from home, some distractions are inevitable. Take the child or pet sightings – on both sides of the screen, in stride. If you are in a noisy environment, please use a headset and microphone.
Effective communication, whether it is in person or virtual, may take a little bit of extra effort. It is always worth it.