“Communicating what we really mean today requires that we understand today’s signals and cues at a granular level while developing a heightened sensitivity to words, nuance, subtext, humor, and punctuation—things we mostly think of as the field of operations for professional writers.”
Email replies that show up a week later. Video chats full of ‘can you hear me?!’ Ambiguous text-messages. Weird punctuation you can’t make heads or tails of. Is it any wonder communication takes us so much time and effort to figure out? How did we lose our innate capacity to understand each other?
Humans rely on body language to connect and build trust, but with most of our communication happening from behind a screen, traditional body language signals are no longer visible – or are they? In real life, we lean in, uncross our arms, smile, nod and make eye contact to show we listen and care. Online, reading carefully is the new listening. Writing clearly is the new empathy. And a phone or video call is worth a thousand emails.
In Digital Body Language, Erica Dhawan—a go-to thought leader on collaboration and a passionate communication junkie—combines cutting edge research with engaging storytelling to decode the new signals and cues that have replaced traditional body language.
As Dhawan quotes from a study: Today, roughly 70% of all communication among teams is virtual. We send around 306 billion emails every day, with the average person sending 30 emails daily and fielding 96. According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50 percent of the time the “tone” of our emails is misinterpreted. The New York Times reports that 43% of working Americans spend at least some time working remotely, a percentage that skyrocketed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Non-verbal cues make up 60-80% of face-to face communication. How does one create connections when communication takes place digitally? How do we show appreciation? How can we find a respectful balance between busy inboxes and response times and stop them from interrupting face to face interactions? Last but not the least, how can we remain authentic and connected when hidden behind a digital screen?
This is where Digital Body Language becomes important.
You see, these days, we don’t talk the talk or even walk the talk. We write the talk.
Signs that were implicit when communicating in the physical world have to now be made explicit by tailoring the communication we send out to create clear and precise messages.
To explain this, Dhawan first draws the Trust and Power Matrix which indicates the level of trust you have with someone vis-a-vis the level of power shared between you. This helps avoid confusion when managing expectations and deliverables.
Once you’ve identified your position on the Trust and Power Matrix, you have a road map on how to modify your digital body language towards building an effective relationship.
When you work on getting the first three right, their integration yields trust, creating an open culture with all-round engagement amongst teams.
This book, supported by case stories, presents a rulebook with strategies to enhance your digital body language, thereby strengthening your communication.
An important aspect the book covers is the differences in Digital Body Language across gender, generation and culture. What is normal to one, may not be to another which often creates biases. When teams are spread across the globe it is imperative people are able to identify these differences for what they are and work around them to realise potential.
In the new modern workplace not limited to offices, or communication mediums not limited to email, physical and digital body language are inseparable. Digital body language is now reshaping verbal communication and thought, and therefore redefining physical body language.
Providing a better understanding of how digital body language can help build trust and authenticity, this book will transform the way you connect by allowing you to build stronger relationships, be it in your professional space or in your personal relationships.
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