Most people communicate quite a lot online, including at work – some experts believe that on the Internet, as in live communication, it is important not only what you say, but also how you say it. Emoji, the choice of punctuation marks, and other elements of digital body language are especially relevant now that many people work remotely and meet online.
Non-verbal on the Internet
This is what Erica Dhawan, who advises companies on how to drive innovation, value creation and employee interactions, is dedicated to her book Digital Body Language. In her opinion, digital body language can be understood as a number of non-verbal signals that the interlocutor can read in one way or another: a period, an exclamation mark or the absence of a punctuation mark at the end of a sentence, the use of emojis or their absence, the speed of response, etc.
As with face-to-face communication, these and many other traits allow people to make inferences about mood or engagement – and not always true, since online behavior is not as natural as regular body language.
«Research suggests that 60% to 80% of our live communication is non-verbal language, such as rhythm, pauses, gestures, and tone.
All of these signals bring energy and emotional cues to our utterance. In many ways, punctuation and the use of symbols in the digital world are new ways to convey those emotions, ”says Ms. Dhawan.
She believes that the proliferation of teleworking with multiple work correspondence and calls has made digital body language a more pressing topic. As follows from the report of the research company The Radicati Group, in 2021, almost 320 billion emails are sent in the world per day, and each person on average sends about 30.
Moreover, according to the expert, it is more likely not about creating strict rules of Internet etiquette, but about paying more attention to how we communicate online, and thinking more about how to make such communication comfortable for the interlocutor. And, for example, to use more informal signals, especially since people around can expect them, and their absence can be read as unfriendliness.
A bit of informality in work chats
Emojis and the choice of punctuation marks in written communication are just as important as nods or smiles in person. For example, if you want to show that you are agitated or angry, you use only capital letters (“write in caps”), and show irritation and impatience with a combination of question and exclamation marks (something like “?!?”). If you want to start an informal conversation with colleagues, you should accompany this emoji with a smile or a waving hand.
Emojis are also important in general and make communication more informal – now they are no longer perceived as a kind of teenage slang, rather they are used by everyone from schoolchildren to CEOs of large corporations.
For example, an emoji in the form of palms together usually expresses gratitude or support, a raised fist – more energetic support or joint protest, and emoji with a raised thumb, as in real life, means approval or agreement.
Of course, all these symbols, depending on the culture and the situation, can be used in different ways, and specific people can use them in different ways, sometimes in meanings that differ from those in common use.
Part of digital body language in the perception of other people will be the very fact that there are no emojis or certain punctuation marks. The expert argues that the style of the letter will be different, depending on whether it begins with a greeting or the author goes straight to the topic, whether it ends with a more formal “Sincerely” or a less formal “Thank you!”
The speed of response to a letter or message is also read by the user as the presence or absence of interest, and in the latter case, it can cause concern.
Therefore, Ms. Dhavan advises to respond quickly enough to messages, even if the first short answer does not contain a meaningful answer on the topic.
There are a few more things to keep in mind. So, if live people often express a good attitude with a smile and other gestures, this is not visible online, so you need to more clearly demonstrate your gratitude, disposition and other positive emotions.
According to the expert, it is especially worth remembering about this for managers, because it is they who bear the main responsibility for establishing a working atmosphere in the team.
The same applies not only to correspondence, but also to behavior during calls in Zoom or other video conferencing services. There is inevitably some element of awkwardness in these encounters, Ms. Dhavan believes, but it can be reduced. For example, by inviting participants to raise their hand before speaking, or by choosing a conversation moderator to keep track of times and topics.
Ms. Dhavan advises turning on the camera during such conversations, and not communicating only by voice. This will create a greater sense of a live meeting. In addition, participants in such meetings should try not to be distracted by other activities, other gadgets, etc.
“Obviously, you’re busy if you look at your phone while others are trying to make eye contact with you via video,” she says, noting that this indicates that you are not interested in meeting. If you need to be distracted by another video conference or some other business, it is better to warn about this – as in the case of a live meeting.