Toning down your body language
As many of us have spent much of the last year connecting digitally for both work and socialising, body language has become more important than ever. We have had to perform the gestures that go along with speaking; such as using our hands, posture and facial expressions, in a more exaggerated and obvious way. This is because we can’t rely on subtle signals or eye contact with delays on video calls.
When we return to a physical setting, we’ll have to be mindful of toning our body language down. The over-the-top way of gesturing that we may have subconsciously adjusted to during lockdown could come across as overly intense or dramatic in real-life. Remember that it’s much easier to pick up on small cues when face-to-face with someone and adjust your body language accordingly.
Make eye contact
Consider how much you can say to a total stranger without ever uttering a word: this is just how important eye contact is when it comes to communication. A furtive look shared between two passengers on public transport can say, “Do you see that too?”. A smile added into the mix can say anything ranging from, “We just made eye contact and now this is awkward”, to “I come in peace”, to “I don’t know you, but you seem nice and I hope you have a nice day”.
All of this relies on using your eyes to connect with the person you are communicating with, and it’s also a big component of making someone feel understood or heard during conversation. Unfortunately, due to the focus on digital and video communication during the pandemic, eye contact may now feel a bit alien, or be something we forget to do. Whilst you shouldn’t be trying to bore deep into your conversation partner’s soul with an intense stare, try and make at least some eye contact during conversations. It can help to show that you’re present and comfortable in the company of the people around you, and make you feel more connected to others.
Many of us might have to initially overcome feelings of anxiety or awkwardness when making eye contact face-to-face. Looking into the video representation of someone’s eyes does not carry the intrinsic emotional connection that exists when we are face-to-face. Once you start using in-person eye contact again, you’ll ease back into the natural swing of things.
Ease into it
With so much extra attention and energy required to read people’s body language on video calls, many of us may have been experiencing “video fatigue”. This isn’t helped by the fact that we’re more aware that all participants of the video are looking directly at us, with people naturally feeling more exposed in the knowledge that all eyes are focusing on them.
Whether or not individuals will persist in feeling this way once we’re back to face-to-face interactions remains to be seen. It could be that people may reacclimate somewhat slowly to the face-to-face normality of conversation, and that we find ourselves feeling exposed or fatigued when confronted with face-to-face interactions. The best thing we can do to combat this is ease into social settings. Start off small, with one-to-one interactions, and get used to the feeling of in-person conversation again. This will make the larger social situations we can look forward to in the future feel less daunting or overwhelming.