By Cherie Singer, Business Development Manager at Heinz Marketing

In speaking with a colleague recently, we both agreed that virtual meetings make it much tougher to “read” people these days. That disconnect can take a toll on us in so many ways. As a former psychotherapist who prided myself on a well-calibrated antenna, which helped me pick up on nuances and subtle communication signals, living in a virtual selling environment sometimes feels a bit off-kilter.

It’s harder to make eye contact, to notice body language, to take in the full range of facial expressions, and it’s just more challenging to see and hear one another clearly. This impairs the ability for that sort of natural, genuine “mirroring” to occur (where we organically fall into speaking one another’s vernacular, reflect physical stance and gestures, etc.). Without having access to these and other subtleties, it’s increasingly difficult to develop connections swiftly and more deeply in business (and in life!).

At the same time, the virtual world makes it easier to read into things – and then maybe to become just a little less confident in our interactions. After all, when Zoom exchanges are stilted (even miniscule audio/visual sync issues causing a pregnant pause or two, the tentative turn-taking and inadvertent overlaps in a group setting, a fraught WIFI connection, etc.) misinterpretations and toe-steppings are bound to occur.

With all this in place in our more physically-distanced world – listening well and upping our verbal communication efforts is more important than ever. Harking back to my psychotherapy days (“tell me how you feeeel?”) explicitly checking in is key. Addressing overtly what you think you’re noticing even if you don’t know for sure what exactly it is you are noticing can help. For instance, something simple like, “It seems you’re feeling hesitant about this,” gives the other person permission to confirm, deny, and/or more fully qualify, as in, “No – not exactly hesitant, I’m feeling ______because ______.”

Being intentional and upfront at the get-go can go a long way to raise possible current or potential awkward exchanges – and will model and set-up expectations about open communication.

A reminder that these old-fashioned communication tips can help even more now during our new virtual times:

  • Be present
  • Listen actively and paraphrase what you think you’re hearing
  • Listen more
  • Take notes
  • More listening
  • Avoid guessing
  • Be clear and simple with your messages and information
  • Stay away from jargon, technical terms, and acronyms
  • Keep an open mind and stay clear of defensiveness/manage your emotions
  • Welcome feedback, both positive and negative
  • Be respectful and kind
  • Always keep others’ POV in mind, express it, empathize with it
  • Follow up in a timely manner and deliver what you promise

Good luck and keep your sense of humor in 2D and beyond!