We read a lot about the importance of body language when it comes to projecting confidence. But how do you assert yourself remotely?
What happens if you’re communicating virtually and for an extended period – in a personal relationship, for an initial interview when looking for a job, or in an ongoing fashion – whatever the reason?
How do we manage to make our best impression, to be properly understood and to assert our interests or ideas – without benefit of a smile, a handshake, or other reassuring aspects of body language?
Online Dating With No Body Language Cues
In online dating, conventional wisdom instructs us not to spend too much time in the messaging or emailing phase, and to get to a phone call fairly quickly. As much as correspondence through email can be reassuring and informative, it’s common sense, right? Don’t we need the spontaneous give-and-take that comes from actual conversation?
Don’t we learn a good deal from the way a person speaks, as opposed to how they write?
The sound of a voice, the tone of voice – these are important aspects of attraction, comfort, discomfort, confidence.
Conventional wisdom also suggests we not wait too long before meeting in person. After all, if we’re considering someone as a potential friend or more, we need to see, smell, sense each other. Pretty obvious!
Some of us have fallen for people through their words and long distance. This is another factor that’s common in today’s online world. There are pros and cons, naturally – as we assert who we are and come to understand the other person – through email, text, and other means for an extended period of time.
Eventually, we still need to meet!
Remote Communication in Business
So what about remote dealings that have become routine in the business world? What if your entire interview process is conducted by phone, possibly with the addition of Face Time or Skype in the later phases?
Some years back I worked with groups overseas, before the days of hopping on Skype or any other platform for video conferencing. We used email and the telephone, and we made those phone calls count. The addition of voice was helpful.
More helpful still, the occasional meeting in person.
In my opinion, there is still nothing quite so good as a face-to-face, even if it’s infrequent, if you’re looking to cement a bond. In the business world, in an employee-employer relationship or a service provider-client relationship, there’s no question that some sort of human contact helps seal the deal and encourage mutual trust.
Remote Interviews, Remote Jobs, Reading Responses
Remote interviews are not unusual, remote work is routine (for some of us), and the entire interview process takes place sight unseen. For certain kinds of tasks – much of what I do as a marketing writer, for example – this doesn’t pose a problem.
The typical interview process is by telephone, exchange of links and other materials, and possibly a little Skype or Face Time, though often that isn’t the case. When some visual communication is involved, the advantages are clear – all the parties involved can get a feel for each other, which allows everyone to read body language – a smile, eye movement, energy, confidence – all of which reflects engagement, not to mention competence.
Moreover, you can see their nodding in affirmation as you speak, and you can assert yourself – and your ideas – as you’re reading the reaction of your listeners.
No Face, No Deal?
Whether we’re talking about a personal relationship or a professional one, differences of opinion will arise. Healthy disagreement is good, right? It yields new ideas and necessary compromises. But how do you assert yourself in a situation when you can’t see the individuals you’re dealing with?
If you disagree, how can you reinforce or reshape your position when you’re not privy to the body language of others? And we could say the same for them, of course.
This column at 3Plus International got me thinking. Consider this, as written by Pippa Ibe:
Assertive communication involves expressing yourself in a clear, calm, confident and compassionate manner, while respecting the other person. You take responsibility for your actions. You don’t play the victim. Assertive communication also includes direct eye contact, calm voice, and congruent facial expressions.
Note the importance of body language in that explanation of “assertive communication.” As Ms. Ibe elaborates, this is so both parties feel heard and respected throughout the exchange.
Pros and Cons of Remote Communication
Screen time sounds great, doesn’t it? We can communicate energy, enthusiasm, curiosity, confidence, empathy, patience, a collaborative nature… all in the expressions that show on our faces and in our gestures. But over the phone? We lose some of the critical information we need in pursuing our goals, and the other party does as well.
But screen time doesn’t always work to your advantage. Poor connections online can be interruptive to the flow of the discussion. If you’re tired, you may not be up to the “performance” aspects of appearing on an iPad on the other side of town… or thousands of miles away. And it is a performance of sorts. Fewer face-to-face meetings means more scrutinizing on the occasions they take place.
As for remote work, I’m a fan. I’ve been doing it for more than 15 years, as both an employee and an independent. You save commuting time. It’s better for the planet. If you’re self-motivated and disciplined, you’re highly productive. For the company or client, it can be less expensive.
At times my tasks were enhanced by face-to-face meetings on-site, especially when client engagements involved me in aspects of their operations. In other instances, the chemistry and quality of communication was such that phone and email were ideal and highly efficient.
It’s worth pointing out that one of the advantages of dealing in writing is the ability to edit and filter – no small thing, for some.
Smile for the Camera Please
While I find Google hangouts, Skype, and even Face Time distracting at moments, don’t we all respond to human faces? Isn’t the occasional smile or scowl critical information in a discussion?
If you are looking to assert yourself – for purposes of putting forth a new idea, for example – the addition of body language is a useful guide.
Without it, you can certainly be effective, but you’re reading between the lines of emails and texts, you may be less aware of the politics playing out in the background, and likewise competing agendas and points of view. Asserting yourself is more challenging. But the need to be “clear, calm, confident, and compassionate” still holds true.
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