There are times you just want to sit across from the person you need to talk to, to listen to, to influence. The person from whom you hope to glean knowledge, perspective, answers… possibly a job.
And that means face time.
Maybe it’s face time on your iPhone or face time on your tablet or face time on a larger screen, via Skype.
I know, I know… It’s not as “fleshed out” as exchanging in the same room, but it’s close enough to amp up the quality of mutual comprehension.
You may arrive more quickly at a meeting of the minds.
Professionally Speaking: Face Time in Business Meetings
Professionally speaking, I conduct the greatest portion of my work without ever seeing my clients. Perhaps I view a still photo (during an online chat), or a profile image on LinkedIn.
Likewise, those with whom I work have little but a similar shot of me – along with my credentials, ongoing output, and communications by phone or email.
We enhance these communications via chats on various platforms. This adds a more spontaneous feeling, and also saves a lot of time. Occasionally, we take it one step further – using Skype to simulate a meeting that closely resembles being face-to-face.
While this may be infrequent, there are times it’s the optimal means to approach a delicate subject, the complexity of an issue that begs for thorough discussion, or simply to reaffirm compatibility in terms of “fit” and teamwork. And isn’t it always better when you can read the reception of your remarks on a colleague’s or client’s face?
Personally Speaking: Face Time in Online Dating
In the online dating world, if we didn’t eventually connect in some personal fashion – a meeting over coffee prefaced by meeting through the video chat of your choice – we couldn’t discern if the person resembles his or her picture. More importantly, we are operating without so many sensory clues to possible chemistry – mischief in the eyes, an authentic smile, gestures that express confidence or its absence.
Personally, I found the dating advice of “chat, email, then see each other fairly quickly” to be wise. One way or another, we need face time, followed by the tangible tests of chemical attraction.
Something else to keep in mind? It’s one thing to be perceived as warm and approachable for an online date; be careful not to mix that persona when you’re doing business. Hands on your face? Head tilted? Hair over your eyes? These may read as flirtatious.
Expressions and Emotions
A recent Psychology Today column caught my attention. In “Faces and Communicating Emotions,” Elizabeth Wagele addresses the extent to which expressions reveal our true emotions. Describing herself as a kid who didn’t want to give too many clues to what she was thinking, Ms. Wagele writes:
… If I was angry I tried to look either neutral or slightly happy. I developed the art of the poker face and did quite well with it… but I don’t remember if I was showing my true feelings by clenching my fists… I would have succeeded in keeping my emotions more private if I had noticed other ways my body was communicating my feeling states.
Naturally, there is a cultural component to this. What may be viewed as appropriate – smiling for example – is dependent on cultural norms, also discussed in the article.
As for the poker face in a business meeting, it can be a distinct advantage if you’re negotiating. Then again, what about an interview, team building, or situations where the interaction is multipurpose or less clear cut?
Body Language Trumps Good “Face”
Ms. Wagele cites psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett in an article in the 2-28-14 New York Times Sunday Review:
… human facial expressions, viewed on their own, are not universally understood…
“Psychologist Hillel Aviezer did experiments in which he grafted together face and body photos from people portraying different emotions. When research subjects were asked to judge the feeling communicated, the emotion associated with the body nearly always trumped the one associated with the face…”
Expressions and Energy
Since body language can confirm or dilute both the smile and the grimace, then face time may be only as good as its ability to serve your interests. Returning to the professional realm for a moment, face time can certainly communicate interest, engagement, empathy, warmth, poise, energy – and this last is critical in a successful working relationship.
Aren’t both critical to achieving proper compensation?
Isn’t empathy, as expressed through leaning forward and looking someone in the eye, vitally important in certain contexts?
If we’re at all concerned about issues of ageism, isn’t worry potentially offset when we can make an impression face-to-face?
How to Look Great on Skype?
The first few times I had to meet on Skype, I was disconcerted. I worried about the angle of the screen, the lighting that would be most flattering, the ideal distance between myself and the camera so I could pay attention, but also jot down notes if needed.
I had little idea how I would be viewed on the other end, and of course, I wanted to look my best, especially in a professional context.
I checked out a few Youtube videos of others, and I noted how they looked up (when thinking), and how they fidgeted when not talking (forgetting they were nonetheless on camera). I wish I had seen these excellent suggestions, explained in “Making Skype Calls: Look Your Best.”
Putting our best face (and posture) forward online is definitely more than “comb that hair, paint those lips,” as it always is when meeting in person. It involves remembering that attentiveness, lighting, facial expression and gestures can all enhance or diminish what we’re trying to accomplish.
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