Digital technologies and Internet have greatly changed our world over the past two decades. Work, personal life and hobbies, much of this has already been transformed into a digital format. Even parties can be held via video link.
Computer programs for remote communication, such as Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, are quite direct competitors to airlines or taxi. Now you can master a foreign language, learn to play guitar or graduate from university – all this can be done without leaving home or vice versa on the go, using your personal gadget.
Features of communication on the Internet
Obviously, communication on the Internet has its own characteristics. On the one hand, it is very convenient. You can call the interlocutor at any time and start a dialogue, at the same time you can change location. Now you can forward files, browse social networks and even read while chatting.
In my opinion, there are three main disadvantages of all this – multitasking, violation of digital communication culture and lack of personal contact. Let us deal with each difficulty separately.
During Skype meetings, you can turn off the camera, continue to participate in the meeting and solve other tasks at the same time. At a face-to-face meeting, the loss of a participant’s attention to the meeting can be easily determined.
Moreover, etiquette says that using a mobile phone or a computer is bad form, not to mention doing any other things, for example, cross–stitch or arrange a sports workout. It is obvious that multitasking harms communication. This is what interpersonal communication researcher Celeste Headlee says in her TED talk, and each of us can confirm this. If you tell something, but people don’t listen to you, they don’t ask clarifying questions, how will you feel as a speaker? According to experience, in this case increased stress is guaranteed, and the performance may turn out to be confusing, if not a failure.
What to do with the first challenge of the digital age – multitasking? Here are some recommendations:
- Turn on your camera. If you are organizing a meeting, warn the participants that you would prefer a video call rather than audio. As practice shows, participants with the camera turned on are more involved in the process.
- Ask questions. It’s no secret that questions are a powerful tool to engage in a discussion during face–to-face meeting, the same thing works at a distance.
- Call participants by name. Personally, I have a problem with remembering people’s names and other common nouns. However, in Skype meetings, everything is different. There you can quickly see the name of a particular participant. Remember, person’s name is one of the most favourite words for them. Start your appeal with a name.
- Don’t do other things during the meeting. The best way to beat multitasking is to focus on the present. No matter how boring the call would be, if you have decided to participate, then it is worth getting the job done. Listen to others, speak up and ask questions. Remember, in conditions of only remote communication, video conferencing is the only way to maintain your image.
Culture of digital communication
Humanity has mastered interpersonal communication for a very long time. There are business etiquette, rules of behavior in public places, culture of writing, etc. If you try to find the etiquette of communication on the web, you will be very disappointed, since there is no common understanding of how to conduct a dialogue remotely. Visually and cheerfully you can watch a video about the cultural differences between personal and remote meetings.
In the process of remote communication, we may encounter the following difficulties:
- Those who are late for a meeting can start greeting everyone by breaking into the conversation. The speaker may lose a speech idea;
- Two participants can start talking at the same time. Due to a slight delay in communication, this can develop into an interesting situation when each of the interrupters gives the floor to the interlocutor interrupting the other;
- Modest or inactive participants of the meeting may be ignored. Moreover, as we know, one of the main tasks of meetings is to exchange opinions. At a face-to-face meeting, “silent people” are easier to notice than remotely;
- Forgotten turned on microphone or video camera can tell other conference participants a lot about you or put you in an uncomfortable position. Fan video related to the topic (18+).
Etiquette of remote meetings:
- Connect to meetings in advance so that you are not late due to technical or other reasons. A traffic jam, a colleague who stopped you on the way, a stuck elevator can prevent you from coming to an in-person meeting later. Being late for a remote meeting is the same as simply not answering a regular call. I think you agree that here it will be possible to “dump” everything only on technical difficulties, and even then 1-2 times.
- Appoint a meeting facilitator. This will allow you to reduce the number of worries, protracted disputes and other pests of productive meetings.
- Determine the meeting schedule, talk about the role of each participant in the meeting. This way you will be able to involve everyone, while maintaining order.
- Keep time (minutes) of the meeting in the chat or on the white board. This way you will be able to maintain the pace and productivity.
- Keep the balance of listening and speaking. Unfortunately, those who prefer to talk a lot offline do the same online. If you assume that a chatterbox will be present at the meeting, talk to the facilitator about the measures that will need to be taken to avoid the transformation of the meeting into a lecture. For example, it can be asking questions to other participants of the meeting.
- Don’t eat during meetings. Even if you have turned off microphone, someone may ask you a question, and you are chewing.
- If you turn on the camera, consider what others can see. Get yourself cleaned up. Sitting in a bathrobe or home clothes at work meetings is a sign of bad form. Also, see if there is a mess behind you. I think it is not a good idea to have a laundry rack in the background.
Lack of personal contact
Perhaps the biggest drawback of remote meetings is the lack of personal contact. Various studies in the field of anthropology say that in the process of personal communication, we exchange not only words, but also facial expressions/gestures, touches, glances and other non-verbal signals. All this gives us additional information, sometimes even more than words. In remote meetings, there is only sound and a picture on the screen.
What should we do if there are no technologies that can completely replace personal communication?
- Start the meeting by talking about abstract topics. Ask others how they spent their weekend, where they plan to go on vacation, what the weather is like today – any safe topics. This will allow you to be on the same wavelengths with your interlocutors.
- Tell stories and ask others to tell stories. Research shows that stories are able to synchronize people’s moods even at a distance.
- Make compliments. It is comfortable to communicate with those people with whom we feel good. Making sincere compliments, you get closer, even if there are thousands of kilometres between you.
The ever-changing world is a given. We have seen great changes in the past, we are witnessing the strongest changes in the present and, of course, we are waiting for changes in the future.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change…”Charles Darwin
Digital technologies have already changed the world. Communication at a distance has become the norm.
The remote communication format gives us great opportunities in mobility, productivity and rate. By focusing on dialogue, observing the culture of communication and taking care of interlocutor’s personality, you will be able to fully enjoy this kind of communication.
Good luck with distance work!