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#WFH: How is Your Virtual Body Language?

In a F2F environment, we use the body to request attention. We lean in, lean out and nod our heads. We use a smile to engage and a tilt of the head to acknowledge. In the virtual world, even with
video, you lose a lot of these cues. It is important to take advantage of the cues we do have and maybe even overemphasize them a little. Active listening, which will be discussed in Chapter 4, is a way of communicating. Mindful engagement lets the other party know that we are paying attention and that they are important. It acknowledges that they have something to say and that we are there to listen. This takes conscious effort on our part. Most of us have less than stellar listening skills. Our brains are quick and our focus is scattered. Making it even more challenging, we have these things called emotions that keep hijacking our conscious efforts. Many of us have issues with emotional self-management. We are hard wired to react. We think really fast. This
is not the best combination for trust (Bollow, 2010).

Facial expressions serve as a window to the emotions. They are one way we pick up on nonverbal cues. Researchers have studied facial expressions for the last 50 years, some claiming that facial expressions are a way of determining our internal mental state. Recently there has been a surge of work on facial recognition using computer algorithms to identify characteristics and emotional states. Often there is a distinction made between those emotions that are actively created for strategic goals or deliberate and those that are uncontrollable reactions and automatic. Either way, facial expressions are one way that virtual interfaces allow us to effectively transmit emotions. The more we move toward the Internet of Things (IOT), the more we will learn about user interface systems and the impact of emotions. Some research already shows that matching a car’s warning voice to the mood of the driver (cheerful or sad) decreases accident rates as compared to a mismatch. The lesson here is matched moods can enhance efficiency and productivity (Bailenson et al., 2007). Understanding and interpreting where the other person is really coming from is an intuitive listening skill that is developed by successful virtual mangers.

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