Erica Dhawan | Communicate Powerfully by Mastering Digital Body Language

In today’s episode, we cover digital body language with Erica Dhawan. Erica studied human innovation and collaboration for over 15 years, shared her insights with over 200 audiences around the world, and wrote the new best-selling book, Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection, No Matter the Distance.

Now that we are working remotely more than ever before, our digital body language is crucial to our success in the workplace, but what is digital body language, how is it different from physical body language, and what can you start doing today to stand out as a leader? 

What to Listen For

  • What is digital body language? – 8:09 
  • Should you be concerned about your background on a Zoom call?
  • What should you be concerned about most when you’re on a video call?
  • How is digital body language different from the body language we use when face to face?
  • How do you figure out what norms are acceptable in digital communication? – 13:44 
  • What assumptions do we need to stop making when communicating digitally and how are those assumptions eroding at our ability to communicate effectively?
  • What can we do to make sure we’re not misreading messages and emails?
  • What can we do to set clear expectations for digital communication? – 19:55
  • How do we collaborate competently in the digital age when so much time is wasted in unclear communication?
  • What are the four anxiety provoking events in digital communication?  – 22:52
  • What two questions should you ask yourself when you realize you’re getting stressed out or anxious about a message or email someone sent you?
  • What should you do if you feel like a team member or friend seems disinterested in a group conversation or Zoom call?
  • How do Zoom calls limit the generation of new ideas? – 34:44 
  • What can you do to foster team chemistry and help team members work together more effectively without team building activities?
  • What three things can you do to maintain engagement over Zoom calls? – 40:00
  • What can you do to be more engaged in meetings if you are the only person on Zoom and everyone else is in a meeting room together?
  • What are the best practices for onboarding digital new hires?
  • How is our digital body language changing our physical body language? – 54:15
  • What ground rules can you incorporate today to set expectations for digital communication?

The digital age has caused an interesting shift in the way we communicate. Our tone and facial expressions are no longer conveyed through words alone, but also in our digital body language. Our digital body language is conveyed through many things including what’s behind you when you’re on a Zoom call, whether you use Slack or email to send a message, and the “tone” of your text messages.  Therefore, it’s critical that we set clear expectations for digital communication to keep our teams on track and engaged as studies show up to 4 hours of productivity are lost per week due to unclear communication. 

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Resources from this Episode

Speaker 1: Welcome back to the art of charm podcast. The show designed to help you communicate with power and become unstoppable on your path from hidden genius to influential leader. We know you have what it takes to reach your full potential, and that's why each and every week we share with you interviews and strategies to help you transform your life by helping you unlock your X-Factor. Whether you're in sales, project management, engineering, building client relationships, or looking for love, we got what you need. You shouldn't

Speaker 2: Have to settle for anything less than extraordinary.

Speaker 3: I'm a J and I'm Johnny. Thank

Speaker 1: You everyone for tuning in let's kick off today's show today. We have Erica Dhawan with us. Erica is a digital body language expert and has a wide array of antidotes to all of the anxieties surrounding online. Only communication. Maybe the past year has shown you that digital communication can leave us quite overwhelmed and feeling disconnected from our coworkers and our peers, email, anxiety, and zoom fatigue are at an all time high in 2021. So we're very happy to be talking today with Erica about her new book, digital body language, how to build trust and connection. No matter the distance as she puts it. We're currently Cumulus. When it comes to signaling our intentions in the ways that used to be done face to face, we're gonna be talking about why we're feeling so anxious and how clearer digital collaboration can help. Now. She comes highly recommended from our good friend Ana grant, whom we had on the show several times in the past. So let's dig in and upgrade your digital body language and communication skills while you're the show. Erica, it's so great to be here. Now we talk a lot about body language and its importance in communication, but we've never actually talked about digital body language. And I'm sure for many of our listeners, this is a new term that they may not be familiar with. So can you define for us what digital body language is and then we'll tackle it together?

Speaker 4: Well, we know that research shows roughly 60 to 80% of our face-to-face communication is nonverbal body language, but in a digital world, body language hasn't disappeared. It has transformed. We now infuse digital body language signals and cues that make up how we build trust or erode it in situations today. Everything from the punctuation views to our response times, to whether we throw in an emoji to how we greet and sign off an email to our virtual video call backgrounds are all signals and cues that matter in our modern world. Something you mentioned

Speaker 2: There that sparked my attention. I saw recently an argument, uh, online where somebody called out somebody for not being ready for interview. Now they sat in front of their computer, they turned it on and they got ready and they started talking, but there was no aesthetic set up. And we're now moved to a place where if you're going to be presenting and you work from home and you're on zoom, then you should have a presentation aesthetic for your, for your video for you.

Speaker 4: In many ways. I think that 15 months ago, most of us didn't think about our video call backgrounds. And now it's a must have when it comes to presenting or building trust with others. My general rule of thumb here is have be thoughtful of your video call background. Make sure there's not something distracting or a big light. If you haven't yet buy a $50 webcam and some good lighting at the same time, don't judge people too much by their video call backgrounds. Remember some people live in five by seven rooms while they're working versus others have expensive. You need a back view, beautiful backgrounds. What's more important when it comes to digital body. Language is how your you show you're listening and engaged than just how pretty your background may look on a screen. When

Speaker 1: We talk about body language, many in our audience understand that, well, it's not something that we're taught in school. We pick it up from our peers. We pick it up in norms. The way we were raised is that the same for digital body language? I mean, how do we learn how to sign off on email and punctuate and response times and all of this complicated digital communication.

Speaker 4: I grew up as a shine introverted kid. My parents were Indian immigrants. So at home we spoke Hindi, which meant at school. I struggled with accented English. And one of the ways I actually learned the norms of how to fit in was all through body language. I would watch the popular girls with their heads high, the cool kids slouching during school assemblies. And it helped me realize that it's not what we say. It is how we say it. And that's so much of how we mastered connecting with others. Now, fast forward, 30 years, about four or five years ago, what I saw was that many leaders kept asking the same questions, questions, like why is there so much misunderstanding at work? Or how do we better connect with different ages of working styles? And what I, what I realized was that there was no rule book for the body of our language in a digital world.

Speaker 4: This isn't taught anywhere. And so my mission with digital body language was really to allow everyone to have a new common framework, to avoid miscommunication, to get more clarity, to create that culture of understanding. And to remember that there is not one digital body language, we have different languages. Uh, the way someone from one culture may send something maybe different for the others. In fact, digital natives with when they see a period at the end of a text, they think it's anger or passive aggressiveness. If my father sends that period at the end of the text, he's just trying to write good punctuation. Well,

Speaker 1: I remember when we were starting our company, one of our former business partners worked in investment banking and he had a pretty slow response time over email. And it was always like, well thought out. And meanwhile, our norm in the company was just quickly responding a bunch of emojis. And we had a meeting one day and we're like, you know, your, your response time is kind of slow. What's going on with email. And he's like, well, I have to write an email in case a lawyer reads, right? Like a lawyer reads. So what do you mean? He's like, well, any email communication could come up in a potential lawsuit. So I want to take my time with how I respond and make sure that I'm putting the appropriate communication email. And we sat there going, man, we were not thinking about that, but obviously an investment banking, that's a big part of his training and onboarding. And we started thinking about, well, what are the norms that then our company? And, and certainly the way we communicate over slack is different than email is different than tax than even different in phone. So how are these norms set? And if you aren't sure, how do we figure them

Speaker 4: Out? One of the things I've found is we're definitely in the wild, wild west of digital body language norms for certain industries, as you said, Aja like financial services, much more formal language as the norm for other companies, especially in industries like tech. I mean the slack only culture is filled with emojis, hashtags and exclamation points and gifts. Um, and so at the end of the day, I think where it starts is leaders, running organizations have the opportunity to set some standards and norms around this. Um, for some, uh, emails should be really formal because they can be forwarded and screenshotted. And for other industries actually sending some rules around what should only be in slack when you should email, when you should pick up the phone are actually really important. And I think a lot of this also has to do with our previous backgrounds and experiences.

Speaker 4: So I'll give you an example. One leader that I interviewed for my book actually told me that any previous job at a pharmaceutical company, she had a boss who wanted everything, very formal email bullet points, and then with regards or best, very formal language. And then she started running a team of nurses and she found out like a month or two into working with them that they found her. So off-putting, and in some ways brash. And it was because she never put an emoji or exclamation points in her messages. And so again, we have to be thoughtful that we are, we are shaped by our backgrounds. If we learned in business school to write thanks for your patients at the end of an email for some that's just like normal, thoughtful gratitude. When I would read those messages, I would be like, is this passive aggressive? Why are they saying pick you in this way? Um, and so on the other end, we have to assume good intent to not get emotionally hijacked, to not try to read into other's messages, but instead remember that there are different dynamics that shape how people bring themselves to their digital messages. You bring

Speaker 1: Up a great point there. So much of communication in the digital format is read through our own emotional state. And it feels like we're also in this hyper sped up culture where you need to respond quickly and there can't be a delay. And oftentimes those two come into conflict in our communication if we're having a crappy day. So for example, before you hopped on Johnny was having some frustrations with his refrigerator service, that energy then carries over into our digital communication here in the interview or over email. And all of a sudden we're having miscommunication and people are getting frustrated and upset with one another. So how can we take a beat and make sure that our emotions are not either coming across the wrong way in communication or we're reading other people's communication through that emotional.

Speaker 4: Remember when it was okay to respond to a voicemail in a week? Like when do we remember that a text within an hour, an email within 24 hours, uh, you know, people start to say, what's up. If we don't react in a video call within like 10 seconds, people jumped to, are you on mute? Um, the, our whole world of how we engage and build relationships has sped up, especially in the last year, but even before that, it's been speeding up over time. And so I think the first thing is that in today's world, less haste equals more speed. The pressure to communicate quickly is causing us to rush and choose hastiness over thoughtfulness. And this caused us, causes us to make mistakes and sometimes to lose trust with others. You do not want to be the person that's rushing, rushing your messages and not answering what someone asked in your email.

Speaker 4: You want to be the person that's giving time for people to actually think before they respond in, in, uh, video meetings. One of my clients now always make sure a debt agendas are sent in advance within 48 hours before the meeting. This allows her introverts to actually have time to think before the video called meeting, they were already struggling with airtime and meetings where they're caught off guard, but it actually is helping everyone engage even better in a digital realm in emails. I like to say slow down and think before you type, especially if you get a seemingly ambiguous or passive aggressive message, or you're in a bad mood, maybe you're Johnny and the last 10 minutes, I recommend pause, do not respond immediately, maybe drive something, but then read it again when you're in a better mood. And, um, also if you're really confused, if you're seeing something consistently, that's seeming passive aggressive or not, like you're not on the same page up for a phone call. I like to say a phone call is worth a thousand emails. And knowing when to switch the medium is just as important as how you slow down and respond in that medium.

Speaker 2: It's such an interesting topic because of all the dynamics. And, and you mentioned earlier about our communication varies to platform the platform. And if you spend a lot of time online, for instance, for my job, I'm going to answer a bunch of messages from asynchronous conversations that I'm having with people who maybe saw a video and left a message or asked a question, and then there's communication that I'm, that is ongoing with, with AIG or other people on the team that needs to get done. And I can't talk to those folks as I'm chatting the same way that I'm chatting with people who asked the question about a video, let alone somebody who's, uh, going to call it. I'm actually going to be on a phone conversation with, and it's, it is drastic and stopping to think and give yourself a moment to adjust to where you are, who you're speaking to and how you're going to be. Speaking to them is very important. I mean, I think we're also seeing the train wreck of all of these different platforms and all these communications coming to a head as we see everyone just squabbling right now, all over everything. I

Speaker 4: Believe we are in additional communication crisis. I recently ran a study with Quester that found that on average employees are wasting up to four hours a week on poor confusing or unclear digital communication, uh, in today's world. It is not just the bad communication and it has been notifications and where we're, we're having video calls. That really should be emails. We're having multiple reply, all emails. That should be five minute phone calls. Um, we're sending things in slack that really should be an email, but then someone teams it and SharePoints, it had WebEx. We just are on overload right now. And so one of the most important things I share is that to collaborate, uh, confidently today, we have to reset the norms, uh, to what was implicit in traditional body language has to be explicit. Now take the time with your teams to clarify which channels are we using?

Speaker 4: When are we using them? What are the response time expectations and how do we use them? For example, an email set rules, emails. It was only for work for questions and answers. Uh, response times is 24 hours, maybe 48. It depends on your organizational culture. Um, and subject lines always have to get to the point exactly what people need and what the response times are body of the email, answer the who, what, when, if you don't, you're not going to get a response meetings, you set up a meeting, you must have an agenda in advance. Otherwise people don't have to come to the meeting, creating some of these simple rules. Isn't just about productivity hacks. It's actually valuing others. It's empathy in a modern age because valuing people today is valuing their time, their inboxes in their schedules. You bring up

Speaker 1: A great point around the anxiety that many of us are feeling through this miscommunication. So many of our clients are complaining to us that you get vague communication from your boss. You are expected to figure it out without bothering your boss or taking more time for an extra call, an extra slack. Hey, I don't understand. And oftentimes they're gonna end up guessing wrong. And then you're going to get called out for guessing wrong and that miscommunication. And now your performance slips. And this creates this anxiety cycle that many of us are feeling with this digital communication. And then you sprinkle in the pandemic where there is no office time where we actually get to connect outside of our digital communication. See each other as humans understand everything else going on in each other's lives and how the communication being so short Curt and up has created this tremendous amount of anxiety in the workplace where now people are afraid to open slack. They're afraid of notifications on their phone because they don't think it's going to be good.

Speaker 4: In fact, I recently saw a study that shows that we tend to hold our breath. When we're reading email, like, think about that. We're holding our breath, whether you're reading email, um, you know, actually this is why I wrote an entire chapter in my new book, digital body language called, why are you so stressed? Where I decoded full the four most anxiety provoking, uh, signals and digital body language. The first one is brief messages where it says, we need to talk dot, dot dot. If you get that from a friend, it might be fun. Like gossip, you get it from your boss. You may feel you're about to get fired. Another one is passive aggressive messages or seemingly passive aggressive. We've all received phrases like per my last conversation with you or bumping this to your, to the top of your inbox. And we don't know whether someone's just being like really obnoxious or is using a phrase that they learned in business school.

Speaker 4: The third one is slow or no responses. If we haven't heard back from someone first, we start to wonder what's going on. Then we might get angry at them. Then we fight and finally realize maybe they just missed it. And we followed up, but it is anxiety producing and last but not least is formality confusion. And I call this when you had an informal conversation, made me brief and formal emails with someone. And then all of a sudden they start starting with their messages with dear Erica and ending with regards. Um, you start to wonder what's going on, or you used to be able to text them, to schedule, to call, call, or call them out of the blue. And now they're like work with my assistant to get on my calendar. And so I think what is important is to remember that digital communication can be anxiety provoking.

Speaker 4: But what you should do is that you, you should always ask yourself two questions in this situation. When I'm feeling anxiety who has more or less power and how much do we trust each other? And if there's a high power and trust gap, remember that anxiety can, can be very common and to stop getting emotionally hijacked. To remember that someone might be typing fast. Like if we get an all-caps, what does that mean? Someone might be typing that fast. They might not be shouting. They might be excited. Or if they're my 75 year old father, they just don't know how to uncap a text message. Like, let's be honest that this is an opportunity to just let it go and, and focus on clear communication. So

Speaker 2: Many things to unpack. First of all, I want to get, I'm going to set the record for some, for some folks who might be listening to this. And if there, if you're listening to this and your first thought is you guys are talking about eight emails, come on and guys, no, I feel it. I've noticed myself get wound up to such a degree. And then when I, when I'm going out of my mind and, and I try to figure out why I'm so worked up, and then I come up with nothing that I realize it is, has been all this digital communication that has spun me out of control. And you throw a refrigerator breaking down in the middle of your day. On top of all that, I'm going to lose my mind now on those padlocks. Here's another thing that I don't think people pay attention to there is what are your own preconceived notions biases about us, about a person who uses all caps for myself.

Speaker 2: I tend to think that people and I don't have any evidence behind this, except my own personal experience that people who use all caps are narcissists. The my message is more important than everybody else's and you need to see it. And I don't care if you think that I'm yelling, it's more important that you see my, my message that's and that may not be how that person they might, as you mentioned, they might've been in a hurry. It might, they might've been owed. It just, it just happens to be that way. But I certainly know people who do that and I've connected those dots. Now I'm going to think that everybody who types in all caps is a narcissist. And then another one that you mentioned is the formalities for myself. I will always, and I do this with AGL at time. And I do with a lot of folks.

Speaker 2: And sometimes I feel bad if I'm doing an FYI, just for your information, this is not me. And I'll be like, does that sound condescending? And I'm sending in FYI, but I do it all the time. I'm just like heads for me. It's just a, Hey, it's a heads up, but I don't know how the other person who's receiving that, what their day has been like and what they're reading into that. And we have talked about this in our programs in depth that you, it doesn't matter how you feel or what you think your, your presentation is saying to other people. They are going to read it from their own, uh, experiences and their own emotions and, and, and perceptions, and that's to be careful of and why you need to make the best presentation, uh, to, to what you know is a good presentation. And then you can let go of how they're going to react.

Speaker 4: That's right, Johnny, in fact, uh, in my research on digital body language, I found that punctuation, like all caps, exclamation points can even be read or interpreted differently, not just by the person, but even by gender generation and culture. In fact, um, one study found that in all caps messages, if you receive it, if you receive an all caps message saying, you know, what does that mean from a man? You're more likely to think it's urgency. It's about urgency or shouting from a woman. You may be more likely to see it as excitement. And I'm a big fan of breaking biases, but it's important to see this. In fact, another study showed that, um, a younger person that uses emojis with a senior person may be more likely to be seen as a more immature, but if the senior person starts to use the emojis first and then the younger person mirrors them, it's more appropriate.

Speaker 4: So again, um, these are cues and signals that really matter today, and understanding that you have a digital body language presence, um, and people may be making preconceived notions is important, but also to take a step back to assume the best intent and others to break your own bias. When you read messages from others, I mean, I had a quote from someone who said, I will never hire someone who has an EarthLink or Hotmail account. They're too outdated, you know, and it's just an example of digital body language bias that we might have in today's world.

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Speaker 1: These concepts from the show has enhanced your life. Imagine what a year long mentorship in the X-Factor accelerator could do for you, unlock your X-Factor and become extraordinary. Apply today at unlock your X-Factor dot com. You bring up a great point about the generational differences, because even now being someone who's a millennial who's been raised in digital communication. I mean, basically once I hit middle school, I was online and that's been the basis for most of my communications since I was fortunate enough or unfortunate enough to have my fiance sister who is a gen Z or stay with us. And she was teaching us that these emojis, that we're sending have different contexts in meetings in gen Z versus millennial. And of course, if you go on Tik TOK, there's wars around those two generations. So many of us in our daily lives are only really interacting with our generation, but then we get into the workplace and we're finding that we have to manage both a generation older than us and a generation below us. And that could be really jarring to figure out what is that norm? Do I send the emoji to my boss or do I send the emoji to the gen Z or, or is that known to be too informal and lead to again, digital miscommunication? So I feel like so many people need to read your book. It's so many companies need to really realize that this is such an important part of setting the culture and the tone, and to alleviate our anxiety that we're bringing into work around communication and miscommunication.

Speaker 4: I did a set of interviews of office workers across generations. And what I found was the differences in digital communication preferences, even within generations were impossible to ignore while an older millennial may, um, may think a quick phone call out of the blue was fine because they grew up with landlines. A younger millennial would hate a phone call out of the blue will be like, I will never check your voicemail. And, and so not only is this generational, even there's micro generations with experiences related to this. Uh, what I did find is generally there are those that are fully on digital natives, body language natives, and those that are what I'll call the digital body language, adapters, those that feel like immigrants to a digital world. They can't wait to go back to face-to-face. Um, that love that quick phone call out of the blue, where we'll send that long message.

Speaker 4: My, my father sends me texts that start with dear Erica and end with love dad. And it's so long, like a handwritten note, but I haven't taught him that a text is not the same as a letter and then a digital native who will hate, like, be totally scared of a phone call out of the blue or, um, really prefer text or I am. And I think what is important regardless of age is to actually have conversations with your colleagues. Are you a native, are you an adapter? You what I call a chameleon, um, which is someone in the middle, and don't worry, there's a quiz in the book where you can assess yourself and assess your team and have conversations about these differences so that you're not just creating a lot of anxiety, but you're focusing on what will best serve the task at hand as well in terms of the workplace, especially I think another

Speaker 1: Miscommunication that many in our audience resonate with. And I know a lot of our clients who are introverts and sometimes lacking in confidence feel is reading into the silence. So in a group chat, it's very easy for an introvert to feel overwhelmed, maybe not sure if they want to interject or how to interject. And of course, for the rest of the group, they can read that silence as disinterest, uh, completely upset with the group and all the other things that silence leads to. And it's important to communicate those norms, both ways to understand the other person and what they're expecting and communication. And if you feel that maybe your emotions are getting the best of you to check in separately outside of that group, slack, that group, chat with that person to make sure that you're not reading into something and assuming negative things about your peers, your coworkers, and people that we need. Good communication with.

Speaker 4: I work with a leader in services and she runs a global team she's in New York city, but she has a team member in London, in Sydney, Australia, and in Buenos Aires, Argentina and on regular, right? And on regular zoom calls, she found that her colleague in Buenos Aires was not engaging on the call. First. She started to think maybe he's multitasking. Then she thought maybe he's just not interested. And then finally she realized maybe I should stop assuming and just ask. She sent him an I am during the meeting. And he said, I'm having such a hard time translating three different English accents when English is not my native language, an American, a British and an Australian accent at the exact same time while they're all talking fast. And, and what she realized is she had to check her bias around this and how hard this can be for different people.

Speaker 4: They started using Zoom's closed captioning. They use the chat much more. I know other leaders who actually now create a pause in their meetings and they say, I want everyone to share their thoughts and chat over the next three minutes. Then I'm going to call on people that have different perspectives, really avoids that bias of just extroverts, who are going to jump in and introverts who don't have time to share. We actually tend to think better in writing first, before speaking. And this can actually be a practice to make hybrid or live meetings, even more thoughtful in the future because of the power of chat tools that we've learned over the last 16 months.

Speaker 1: I love that. And I feel many of us are now sitting in zoom rooms where it is overwhelming when there's so many competing voices and you not only have the extroverts, but you also have the gunners who want to prove themselves who don't have that time or space that they would have had at the water cooler, or they would have had in the office to get the face time that they feel they need to get ahead and get promoted and lost in the shuffle is great ideas. And you talk about this in the book that we can't access the creativity we fall into this group think where just the loudest voice on zoom becomes the norm. And no one else gets to chime in. And that leads to bad. Decision-making bad outcomes in business, and a lot of regret and hurt feelings on team members who feel unheard. And yeah,

Speaker 4: That's right. I mean, I believe that we have to reactivate what I call virtual or hybrid water cooler moments. I I'll never forget pre pandemic. I was on a conference call. Three of us were remote. Three people were in the office and it wasn't until the 26 minute of a 30 minute meeting that someone in the office said, does anyone on the phone have something to share? We had been excluded the entire time. And so I actually think if we can use the last year to be more self-aware, to be more thoughtful, we can create things like virtual water office hours, where everyone gets on and Coworks, no matter the distance, maybe simple, even lunch breaks where we're inclusive of those that are remote versus often being biased to who was around us in the office. And, and these things are going to make our businesses better because we're going to capitalize on the collective expertise of everyone, not just who's in front of us.

Speaker 2: One of the things that I've been able to see now that everything we've had this time, the transition much of our lives to being online and that online virtual communication is, is more and more prevalent for all of us. One of the things that has become apparent is that there are lots of folks who put in a chat room are just going to be lurkers. They're just going to watch what's going on. And they're not really, they're not going to add anything. It's very rare that you will see a post by them. And for me, because of the way I engage with social media or in a chat room, I think, well, maybe they're not having a good time. They're just as engaged with the conversation as I am. They're just not, they don't feel comfortable and contribute.

Speaker 4: And I think this goes back to the fact that we all have different love languages, even in our professional lives, we almost have different digital love languages, where we think if someone didn't like my posts, if someone didn't comment on it, they weren't engaged, but they actually loved it. And we only find out three months later when we saw them over coffee, how, how much of an impact it had on them. So similar to those that will speak up and type something versus those that are complete lurkers, but avid fans, we have to, uh, sort of not measure ourselves in likes and comments. And instead, really remember that there are different digital love languages. There are those that will tell us the impact, uh, on a phone call or in-person much more avidly than ever. We'll respond in a, in a comment. And there were others that will love to comment 24 7, but never speak up on a call or in a meeting.

Speaker 1: One other thing that we've been harping on a lot for those who are living on zoom, more than ever, which is removing distractions. So as humans, we are terrible multitaskers. And before the pandemic, you wouldn't be seen in a meeting, checking your email and answering a slack and checking your calendar for the 17th time to see when lunches, but on zoom with the screen in front of us and being forced to stare at the screen, for whatever reason, it's become more normalized for us to get distracted and look at things. And all of a sudden lose our train of thought, lose the communication thread that we need. What are your recommendations there to maintain engagement and to keep our team members from multitasking, even when they may feel that it's totally fine in a zoom setting? Well, we all

Speaker 4: Have whether we've experienced others, multitasking or been culprits of it because everything is working in a 24, 7 pace and speed now, and it is hard to often be on video calls all day long, and then you have no time to actually check email. People almost think are our calendars are like their to do lists now. So we have no time and space to actually be thoughtful. When one practice I recommend to try to avoid multitasking for yourself is to actually set email blocks where you can check email within your own time every single day, because otherwise that calendar will be filled with one more zoom meeting. Um, maybe a morning, 9:00 AM block, a new nut block, 3:00 PM block, whatever works for you. It depends on your organization. The other a second thing is to stop having 30 and 60 minute meetings have 20 minute and 40 minute meetings.

Speaker 4: We usually don't need the full time. And we're just sitting, hearing to what calendars create, give people those 10 minutes to catch up on things. And even at the beginning of a meeting, say, you know, here's what I want to achieve at the end of the meeting. Here's how I'm going to engage all of you to achieve this goal. And we all stay present. I'm going to end the meeting 10 minutes early, that will quickly avoid multitasking of others and allow everyone to get on the same page. The third thing is notifications like really it's best to try to avoid the notifications popping up. Um, but it's really hard. And so take the time to be thoughtful of it. If you have to attend to something like a text or something urgent in a meeting, let people know it may be in the chat. Say I have to go off video for 30 seconds, but I'm listening. And then I'll be back on if you have to look down and you're on video, look down quickly, address it, and then look up and use your video body language to showcase that you're back and listening. Whether it's head bobbing, smiling, or sharing something in the chat. That's not just, I agree, but something that adds to the conversation. And again, I think those little tweaks can help us all, not feel insulted when someone's multitasking, but also help each and every one of us to be more single taskers than multitaskers. I

Speaker 1: Know a dread that's on everyone's mind is how we go back into the office. And there's a lot of different perspectives on this hybrid of some work from home, some work in the office and how that ratio is going to pan out really varies by every company, but many of our clients and in our audience are worried about this around, okay, how is this going to work? As we transition in some team members are in the room together, and I'm the one on zoom. I'm the one who's not able to participate for various reasons. Uh, how can we address those challenges as we move back to a more fluid in and out of the office work schedule that many of us may not have been used to before the pandemic.

Speaker 4: So, you know, this is going to be another, I think, reset for all of us. It's kind of like, we've been gone for summer break in high school, and now we're all going to come back. And, and we it's like the first day of school again. Um, and we don't know like, is it freshman year or there entirely new norms, um, you know, where lockers are and who's in, who's in the cool area versus who's not. Um, and I think it's kind of very similar to that. So one of the things that I think is important is as we move to hybrid work, to set some norms and standards around this, for example, in meetings set some standards. So you're geographically inclusive of everyone. For example, um, have a live meeting host and have a remote meeting host and make sure they have equal parts of the agenda where the remote meeting hosts actually leads the first half of the agenda to avoid that visual bias of just who's in the room as zoom is actually coming out with a new white boarding tool where people can whiteboard in the room, but also those that are remote can see everything and contribute, which is super cool, um, or use of a virtual whiteboard and alive whiteboard in the room.

Speaker 4: Make sure that you have a video camera in the room where it remote attendees can read body language of those in the room as well. They're not just looking at a wall because that's not fair to them as well. And last but not least, if you're presenting start with the remote attendees to ask questions and comments first, I think just that design chronologically can avoid a lot of that visual bias. That, to be honest, we were terrible at often pre pandemic as well when people were on conference calls in an office setting. And so I think if we can remember that this is a moment not to go back to the way it was, but actually transform work, that this is a moment to be more inclusive than we ever were in the past. And to set some norms for video, for hybrid, for live meetings that will allow us to be more inclusive and creative. It will just benefit us all and remembering that it will involve traditional and digital body language interplaying together versus one or the other.

Speaker 2: And what would you say to the person who hears this conversation and thinks, oh my God, that is a lot of stuff to be conscientious over.

Speaker 4: There's a book on it that will answer all your problems, but I'm joking. I'm joking. I think, um, you know, the best way to answer them is to say, you know, the research has shown that up to 50% of the time, the tone in our emails can be misinterpreted. And on average, employees are wasting up to four hours a week on poor communication digitally. So if you haven't all those years, you've spent mastering traditional body language, the head nod, the eye roll, they lean in. This is the moment to build the skill of digital body language. It won't just benefit you. It will benefit everyone around you.

Speaker 2: The eye roll is my favorite and AIG knows I do that. We're in trouble.

Speaker 4: Wait, can we talk about the digital equivalent of an eye roll? I think it's like that that smiley the smiley face emoji for something that's actually tense. And passive-aggressive, that's my version of a digital eye roll, but I welcome your opinions on what a digital eye-roll is.

Speaker 1: Well, we've certainly had some team members who oftentimes would send something that was meant to be taken seriously, but punctuate it with the smiley face, which we knew was exactly that the digital eye-roll and it can really wear you out. The challenge that I think many were not ready for with the pandemic was actually onboarding people in a fully virtual work environment with relationships that have been established pre pandemic. So many of us, uh, and, and a lot of our clients have gone through this transition of taking on a new role and working in a new team, or maybe starting in a new company and starting completely virtual. But the entire team obviously had been working together before the pandemic and absorbing and learning. Those norms is really challenging when you're onboarding. And obviously the onboarding with HR is more around benefits and, uh, the ins and outs of working together and the team, but not the digital body language communication. That's so essential. So what is your advice for those who are starting in a new role with a new team or at a new company where there aren't clear guidelines or norms around digital body language? How can we quickly get up to speed with the norms in the office in a way that actually helps us and doesn't set us back. And, uh,

Speaker 4: Most of the things we learned in our first jobs were at the water cooler. You know, John likes quick walk-ins in the office or me walk by his office at 5:00 PM, and then you'll get your question answered, but never email it to him. He'll be annoyed or not respond. These are the things that really allowed us to understand how work gets really done versus any standard manual. And I think that we're dealing with a lot of challenges with that in a virtual setting. One of the things I recommend when you're onboarding new hires in a virtual setting is to remember that the traditional sort of three-day training isn't going to work or the traditional just look behind my desk and see how I do this. Isn't going to work, but there are actually smart ways of engaging virtually that will actually speed up knowledge sharing for a new hire, for example, um, record recent meetings that you've had internally and externally had new hires actually listened to those recordings of meetings in a way that you couldn't do in the office because there wasn't recordings of office meetings to learn the rules of the road to learn how language is used within the company.

Speaker 4: Another thing is those junior team members who are starting out can shadow probably client and customer meetings. They normally weren't allowed to attend so that they can really understand the business. They can be off video in a zoom call and it can usually be appropriate in certain situations. Um, another one is create a virtual peer group for new hires to share information with each other. They often went to a training program, but actually they can be a knowledge network to reduce duplicative work and share information. And, uh, last one is instead of having sort of weekly meetings have like 15 minute checkpoints every day, kind of like you did in the office, you walked by someone even like a quick 10 minutes at 9:00 AM and 10 minutes at 5:00 PM, like that will transform how individuals are able to answer, uh, ask questions and change that relationship for a new hire. So those are some best practices. If you're onboarding new hires digitally, I think the other lens to it is now all these new hires that started out digitally have to go to face-to-face, which is also a whole nother lens. And I think what will be important there is to use actually digital, to stay in touch with those that aren't at headquarters or there aren't in your office, particularly, but also to use this time, as we move back to hybrid to deepen connections that you couldn't have in a digital world,

Speaker 1: You bring up such an important point there. And as a leader, it's been something that I've learned over the last decade is that more small moments of communication to start the day end today. Those check-ins and keeping them informal, allow that anxiety to wane, because if you have a team member, who's now worried about something for days on end, as the data shows their productivity slips and that anxiety doesn't go down by sleeping on it, it continues to carry over. So to have that touch point to start the day, make sure they're oriented, right? And then to end the day. And if there are any questions, concerns, gaps to handle it in that moment, instead of letting it go on for days on end or waiting for the next weekly meeting to bring it up, which at that point, the whole team has suffered. I think

Speaker 4: Absolutely. It's almost like at, for that new hire as well. I like to say, instead of being first in and last out of the office, one of the things you can do is send like a quick update at the beginning of the day, saying, here's what I'm going to complete today. And then at the end, that quick email recap, here's what I accomplished. And here's questions. I have like those little things to make sure that you even show you're on it as a new hire can be incredibly effective.

Speaker 2: I heard the term from you called radical recognition. And is, is this being able to identify quickly these communication styles and then act accordingly

Speaker 4: Radical recognition in, in my language is in many ways showing people that we truly hear them, that we listened and that we appreciate that. And, uh, it's in today's world. We all have that, you know, quick, uh, direct eye contact that smile when someone did something great. And the other team member, I was like, okay, they appreciate me. They value me the team dinner, the offsite, the birthday celebration with the cake at the office. I'm now in a digital world. I think a lot of those cues are completely invisible. And so what I mean by radical recognition is that what was implicit in traditional body language has to be explicit in how we recognize others in digital body language, sending the quick THX period. Thank you. Email is not a thank you. It's an acknowledgement. You got the email. So take the time to give credit where it's due, whether it's video, shout outs of great work done, acknowledging your team at the beginning of a meeting with specificity around what they did. I know a leader who calls people on their birthday during the pandemic. Like that's a nice touch, another leader that makes sure to celebrate, um, specific moments in town halls for each of the team members or has appreciation awards, virtually whatever is authentic to you. I think you should do that. But radical recognition is incredibly important and here to stay, especially as we move to hybrid

Speaker 2: The smile, the eye contact, it allows us to feel safe in those environments. We're working. We don't want to be worried about biases, fill in about us or our place in that work environment. And if our peers are appreciative of us, without that radical recognition, it leaves us to wander. And if, and if we're not in a right place, we all know where those mental wanderings lead us to a very scared isolated, the pressed play.

Speaker 4: Imagine staying up all night to finish a deliverable for your boss. And then you saw them in the office and you saw the relief in their face, the exhale you saw them give that deliverable to their boss. So everyone knew you had stayed up all night. Now in the digital world. If we stay up all night, we send the email. Maybe we get a K period or no response, and imagine how devalued devalued we feel. And this is why valuing visibly matters more than ever.

Speaker 1: Was there anything counterintuitive or shocking in the research that you did around communication?

Speaker 4: You know, I wrote my book, digital body language, as I, as I really thought is as a compliment to traditional body language, but I never realized until I finished the book and there the transformation of the last year of how much our digital body language is changing our physical body language. In fact, we've spent the last almost a year and a half online. And I think that that is changing how we'll meet face to face. We're more likely to have less eye contact with people to look down at our phones, maybe miss the lean in, in a sales conversation or to show that we're listening. And we're more likely to think and expect others to respond in bullet points because we've been reading emails and thinking in bullet points for a year. Uh, it is more common to be okay with a lot of distractions in a room, uh, where as before, if we're, if we're not fully attentive without tools or technologies in front of us that actually showed respect in a face-to-face meeting. Now we'll probably have video screens and lots of computers up. And so I do think that in a way that was counterintuitive and I never would have expected our digital body language is transforming digital body, uh, traditional body language. And that is here to stay. I completely

Speaker 1: Agree with that sentiment and realizing that the more we're in this position of relying solely on digital body language, the more important those cues are going to become when we get back in the office, because that's how we've received the communication thus far. And we've been added a year. That's a long change in our behavior. It was not a two week or three week adjustment period when we've been behind screens for this long, there's going to be that communication carrying over now into our workplace environment. And for those in the audience who are starting out, who don't have great bosses, presenting norms and are completely confused, what are your ground rules? As we just go through phone communication, texts, slack, and email that you think should be a go-to guide for those of us who are completely confused in this digital landscape.

Speaker 4: Yeah. So I think, let, let's go through each and every one of them, you said, AGU said phone, email, slack, and text. Is that right? Right. So, um, we'll put phone and video together, right? Um, and so the first is just general calls. Um, my general rule of thumb with calls. If you want to set up a call with someone, you must have an agenda in advance, uh, or a clear purpose, send it in advance. Uh, also know when you need a video call, otherwise opt for a phone call and we kind of have lost the art of the phone call. It was so amazing. And we've kind of now it's an exception, not the norm, not everything needs to be a video call and you have an opportunity to set that norm as well as even if you're on a video call, maybe for the first 10 minutes, everyone needs to be on video and then you're a slide sharing.

Speaker 4: So then you can set a rule. You don't need to be on video anymore. This will also avoid a lot of distractions and people worrying about how they look on camera versus actually engaging in the content. Now let's go to slack. So with slack, I like to say if you've, if you use slack or another like instant messaging tool, um, set some norms within your team around when you email and when you use these tools, if you added slack, you should set a standard so that we will no longer email internally about these topics. Everything goes on slack, make it the informal place for internal discussions, maybe external discussions or by email, or there is a clear cadence. Otherwise people are using both of them for the same information where people don't know where to go to for what, and even in slack, just making sure you're clear on what are the channels.

Speaker 4: What's the purpose of channels too. If you want to chat, have a separate channel called cooler for that to chat so that you can get to work in channels as well and, and use simple norms, whether it's tagging or searchability. So people can find information this, when it comes to email, I like to say in today's world, we read email, like we read websites, have a good subject line, like get to the point in the subject line, don't have already Ariary or no reply. Right? Um, and, and in the email, remember to think about the body, the, you know, the have bullet points, subject clear, clear, bold, and underline headings, clarify what you need from the other person within the first two sentences and make sure if you're on the two line it's to people who need to respond, if you're out, if they're on the CC line, they just need to read it.

Speaker 4: And hopefully it's better if they don't respond and make that clear unless they have a question. And then, um, last but not least texts, I like to say text is urgent. Um, don't be a serial texter, um, for things that aren't urgent, maybe within the hour within three hours, or maybe with close friends or where there's a high trust relationship. So knowing some of these roles and when to use each of these tools will help all of us. I like to say a phone call was worth a thousand emails, knowing when to switch from a video call to that simple one-on-one exchange can make someone's day and last but not least, um, be thoughtful of not being a serial texter. Maybe like my dad again, who will text me five messages saying, call me when it's about how to fix a fax machine. And it's not urgent

Speaker 2: All of those. And especially the, the moment of, of making sure that the subject you're getting to the point, your emails are concise. Make sure what it's about is in the headline. Um, I, myself, uh, with the work that we do at AOC, we're looking over newsletters. I'm also on, uh, and Twitter's certainly hones your messaging. And I've also know the things that I have on Twitter. Now we'll go into other communication and it drives me nuts when others are not following that. And to even expect them to be adapt to that sort of messaging, is it that's, there's just on my end to expect that, but however, I'm so accustomed to it within a year, we're all going to be writing in copy.

Speaker 4: That's right. I mean, I think in many ways I grew up as an Indian immigrant in the U S and I struggled to find my voice. And so much of it was learning the cues of traditional body language. Now we're all immigrants to digital body language, but like each channel has diff is different countries with different accents and dialects. And we're not going to be able to learn all the accents and dialects perfectly. But, um, what is important is to set some norms so that we can move to clarity, not confusion.

Speaker 1: So I know that there are some listeners, myself included who have done some photo pause in these different channels, going through that rundown. I've recognized maybe that wasn't the best way to communicate. How do you handle that when you have made a mistake and you have gone outside the norms in a way that doesn't impact your reputation, that allows the other person to feel good about that miscommunication, because let's be honest, as we just talked about, it's getting more complex every day, miscommunication is going to happen, but I know that's a point of anxiety for many, which is leading them to not communicate at all because they don't want to make a mistake and they don't know how to handle the mistake. So if we have stepped in it, how do we handle? So when it

Speaker 4: Comes to making mistakes, uh, I like to say in these situations, speed matters just as much as substance. So, you know, taking the time to fix it quickly is important. Maybe it's a quick, follow-up thoughtful email. Maybe it's opting for a phone call to, uh, you know, reduce the, and the situation. Um, maybe it's, uh, sleeping on it overnight, but not waiting too long. And then coming to it with a thoughtful response. These are things that can make a big difference in, uh, resolving as especially mistakes or when you're rushing and you send something where you don't actually answer the question and you don't look good, right? Like this is our presence today. This is how we build trust with others. It's frankly, not eye contact and good physical body language anymore, or it's not for a while. And so at the end of the day, um, if you take the time to respond quickly, also ask yourself, is this the right medium to respond and, um, to make sure that you're responding in a way that in, in, in the channel that the other person will value, not just you, so not just saying oops, with a smiley face.

Speaker 4: Um, but I, you know, calling them and saying, I'm sorry, I messed that up. You know, here's what I'll do, Matt. Next time we'll allow others to feel valued in that situation versus you just covering your own insecurity. Well, you

Speaker 1: Hit the nail on the head. This is our new first impression. So many of us are not meeting face to face. So having me on a CC instead of a BCC or non, including the attachment is a first impression, these mistakes being rushed and being on a shot clock and not thinking through thoughtfully in our communication, when you're on the receiving end of that, especially as a stranger or someone who doesn't have much trust or know you, that gets perceived in a very negative way that I don't want to do business with this person. I don't want to give this person time on a phone call. I can't meet this person up in person if that's how they're handling their digital communication and not valuing my time. So we have to really be thoughtful in the speed of the communication that we're having, because yeah, multi-tasking answering that email on phone while stuck in traffic on your way to dinner thoughtlessly, non-included the emoji or the emotional context with that message. As we know, from our first impressions in the real world, it can be very hard to change. Someone's first impression of you. And if digital communication is that first impression, we don't want to leave the wrong one. That's

Speaker 4: Absolutely right. Another thing, even the meeting calendar invite is like the new first impression. When you're setting up a meeting, did you have an agenda in there? Were you clear on what the purpose was? Uh, we all know research shows within the first seven milliseconds. We're making a first impression face-to-face this is the opportunity to make sure you're upgrading it in a digital world.

Speaker 1: Absolutely. Our last question for you, we ask every guest in obviously writing this book and putting together all the research around communication. You've recognized the things about yourself, strengths and weaknesses, and we'd love to know what you consider your X-Factor or what is that unique skillset and ability that's made you successful, not only in your communication, but in work.

Speaker 4: I think as a kid, um, navigating different cultures and languages, uh, I developed a good observation skill about not what people were saying, but what they were really saying. Being able to read that dynamic in a room. And it's allowed me to bring the skills around collaboration, to financial executives at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, but it's allowed me to also connect with women of color and communities talking about social injustice. Um, but, and it's also allowed me to talk to Silicon valley and tech managers. And I think that it all starts, um, by understanding that we have so much more to learn from each other than to antagonize each other. Uh, it also starts with understanding that we have different not only traditional body language, but digital body language styles, and that the answer is not connecting in the way that you like to connect with the connecting in ways that others like to connect. Um, and last but not least, I think the, the final aspect of that X factor is I realized that the best thing I can do is be myself. So sometimes that's getting my audiences to Bollywood dance, or because I love to Bollywood dance or, um, making everyone laugh by sharing my biggest digital mistakes that I've made. Um, these are things that will allow us all to build connection with each other and allow others to be willing, to be vulnerable as well.

Speaker 2: I think your book is incredibly important because it allows all of us to stop and think about where all of this is heading and making sure that we don't solve problems with the wrong answers. For instance, I had saw an invention that is a camera that goes on your head so that when you're walking down the street with your phone, it will alert you. If you're going to walk in anything that is not the type of solutions that we need. And I'm old enough to know that my generation sees that and laughs, but the younger generation goes, oh, that's perfect now [inaudible]

Speaker 4: Oh, it's so true, Johnny, I have another one for you. There's actually a new invention where you can put a camera in the middle of your monitor. So it can show like you're making eye contact on video calls. Um, so I think that's actually a better upgrade for even some of us that are not that young anymore. Um, but I think these, these new innovations are here to stay. I know you have a

Speaker 1: Digital body language toolkit, where can our audience find more about the book and the tool kit? If we've realized that we need to improve our digital body language? Yeah.

Speaker 4: So you can find the [email protected] or available everywhere, Amazon Barnes and Nobles audible. I also have a new course on digital body language. It's at DBL course.com and you can get a special gift for listening today, uh, which is a digital body language toolkit on my website and Erica dhawan.com/dbl. Thank you so much for joining us, Erica, thank you so much for having me [inaudible]

Speaker 1: Johnny. I was excited for this episode. Digital body language is a new frontier that many of us are now traveling on due to the pandemic. And as we know, when your cue lists will, communication becomes a lot more difficult. So she drops some real knowledge bombs on how to communicate more powerfully at a distance and to help us with that transition back to the workplace. Well,

Speaker 2: This show is about communicating powerfully, no matter what context, what platform you need to be heard, you need to be seen and you need to be understood. And this is why I love the show and the guests that we bring

Speaker 1: On. Now this week, we got a shout out to our Facebook group member, the art of charm community. This goes out to Jeremy bay.

Speaker 2: Jeremy is a part of our Facebook community and used our vertical question framework to instantly connect people at a networking event.

Speaker 1: Jeremy writes in, there was a guy who clearly wasn't emotionally reacting to a life transition in the way that I would have reacted. So I actually reflected back to him the way I think he felt his eyes lit up and instantly took the conversation to some better places. Thank you guys so much for sharing the vertical question framework. It made conversation effortless. Now, Johnny, that's what we love to hear. These techniques are super powers when used properly. You're able to see the matrix and powerfully communicate to make the most of any opportunity.

Speaker 2: AJ and I have been going live weekly covering lessons directly from our programs podcast to help you unlock your X-Factor so that you may begin to attract the right people, opportunities and lifestyle that you've dreamed for

Speaker 1: Yourself. Now last week's training in the private Facebook group was taken directly from our toolbox episode and rapport, building of all about asking lateral and vertical questions, to learn more about your prospect, to create more conversational threads. And of course, to make conversation captivating. That video is up along with weekly trainings by me and Johnny and the team here at the art of charm. You can join our Facebook group today and watch all of them. We look forward to seeing you in there, join us today and check it out. The art of charm.com/challenge to join our Facebook group, Johnny and I live every single week there supporting you, answering your questions. We

Speaker 2: Can't wait to see you guys on the inside. The charm podcast is produced by Michael Harold and Eric Montgomery until next week. I'm Johnny

Speaker 1: And I made Jay stay charming.

Speaker 5: [inaudible].

Check in with AJ and Johnny!

AJ Harbinger - author of 1165 posts on The Art of Charm

AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality. Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.

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