Making Connections In Our Digital World

A laptop with a video conference happening on the screen as individuals attempt making connections digitally

Necessary separation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has meant many changes in many lives. Some are experiencing increased loneliness by not being able to see loved ones. Others are having trouble creating a balanceas work and life begin bleeding into one activity. Many have had to increasingly rely on technology (smartphones, computers, tablets, etc.) as a means of making connections, whether that be socially or for work.

Now, I don’t believe that technology as a vessel for connecting with others is inherently a bad thing. However, it cannot take the place of face-to-face human interactions. This is why it’s important to communicate effectively and make active efforts to connect with others, no matter the circumstances. This is what we will be exploring today.

The Process of Face-to-Face Communication

When you speak with someone in person, you pick up a lot more than just the words that they say. You are also, often unknowingly, picking up on their body language: the way they stand or sit, how much eye contact they make, whether they gesture or gesticulate in any way, as well as their tone of voice.

All of these come together to create an overall message, the meaning of which you are able to process and respond to. This rapid-fire exchange is what comes naturally to many people, thereby making connections through face-to-face communication in the workplace something we tend to find appealing.

The Difference Between Technological and In-Person Communication

While the communication that occurs in a face-to-face setting may sound exhausting (and for some people, it truly is), communication over technology can dampen some of the social cues that happen in person, making it more difficult to have a productive and fulfilling conversation.

For instance, sending a text message, posting something on social media, or typing up an email does not necessarily mean you will get instantaneous responses. The wait for any sort of feedback can be anxiety-inducing. The tone and pitch may be lost in these formats.

Having a conversation over FaceTime or Zoom can help alleviate some of these anxieties since direct questions and comments are not as easily ignored. However, it can still be difficult to pick up on facial cues, and eye contact is all but impossible, especially if the visual connection is with a big group.

Restoring The Connection Online

Communication over technology is nearly unavoidable in the time we’re currently living. Whether it be for safety or convenience, it’s important to learn how to reframe our virtual life into one of connections and relationships.

While it’s typically best to opt for an in-person meeting for making connections—when it’s safe and possible—here are a few tips for having more fulfilling conversations when technology is the medium:

Adjust Your Camera for Nonverbal Cues

If your Zoom screen is showing only your face, this will eliminate any gesticulations you make throughout the course of the conversation. People may be able to read you better if your camera is far enough away to show your hand gestures.

Look Into Your Webcam

While it’s not the same, you can simulate eye contact by looking into your camera as you speak and listen. This sends a nonverbal cue to participants that you are engaged in what they’re saying.

Communicate Fully

While it may be unproductive to send out long emails and text threads, or spend hours talking on Zoom, sometimes in these scenarios, it’s better to over-explain rather than rely on context.

A lack of connection that is presented over a technological conversation may leave some words open to interpretation, which can be confusing and, sometimes, destructive. Say things as clearly as possible, be patient when others ask for clarifications, and don’t be afraid to utilize emojis where appropriate.

In Summary

We may not be in control over whether or not we have to communicate via technology. What we can control is the quality of the conversations we have online. Always strive to speak as clearly as possible and ask others what they might need in their particular situation. These will help build up an effective conversation, no matter the circumstances.

I’ve seen how the effects of poor communication, whether online or in-person, can completely change the dynamics of a workplace. Need help getting yours on the right track? Contact me to schedule a meeting.