Nonverbal Communication Goes Digital

Nonverbal communication, which refers to anything that sends a message that is not a spoken word, is a constantly evolving language. As we continue to streamline the way we communicate digitally, we start to realize we’ve actually been slowly developing a new language of nonverbals, all specific to video-based experiences.

In reading through this article on BBC, a few things stood out to me. Most notably, a point I often make when speaking with clients: as video becomes more embedded within our professional experience, expectations will rise when it comes to the efforts we put into showing up and “sharing something of ourselves” in this digital forum. 

I would argue that while there was a level of necessary lenience during the pandemic, that will dissipate. And in some cases, it already has…

Whether we are in person, or virtual, people make judgements based on what they perceive. A decision to have your video off, sends a strong nonverbal message. Having a sloppy background, poor lighting or being out of frame all send a message that you haven’t taken the time to consider the other person’s experience, or that you are unaware of, or don’t care about their perception of you. 

A particularly poignant quote: 

“Gestures such as turning the camera on can also be a question of politeness. “We wouldn’t sit in a board meeting with a bag over our heads,” says Ridell. “We have to learn new rules to avoid being rude.”

Team on video call

The point about learning here is key. A lot about digital communication is pretty far from what we might consider ‘natural’. Looking into the lens instead of at the person you are talking to for instance, or having your head in the upper third of your frame, not in the middle, are counter-intuitive. 

These seemingly small details make a MASSIVE difference. People notice. People appreciate and in the end, people learn a bit more about who you are as a person, when you put intentional effort into the way you communicate nonverbally on video. 

We are helping in our specific ways with our tools at Virtual Sapiens. We believe that those who lean in now, put in effort and practice honing their new digital presence, will be at a competitive advantage by the time everyone else wakes up. 

Keep a sharp eye on yourself and others, I think you will be surprised at just how many messages are being shared nonverbally in our virtual world of work.