Our Unspoken Dialogue

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A Sherlock of Others, Part 2

Nonverbal expressions and cues are a telltale means of interpreting the impact of words or situations on others. Emphasis on the importance of gestures and expressions has prevailed in professional and social settings for years, whether we’re analyzing the subtleties of a job interview or a first date.

In this video, retired FBI agent and body language expert Joe Navarro delineates the enigma lurking within nonverbal behaviors. Oftentimes, gestures that may seem defensive are entirely misinterpreted, thus creating inadvertent miscommunication. But nonverbals continue to paint a picture in our minds, such as when we think we are losing an audience, or when someone around us is excited–or exhausted.

It’s through these clues—more aptly, how we interpret these clues–that we can recognize when colleagues are tightrope walking across the pitfalls of burnout. However, in today’s world of work, with so many colleagues now at the other end of a computer, these once-ubiquitous signals are now cloaked behind static images or blocks of text.

Yet a blanket requirement of constant camera-time with remote colleagues has also led to the unfortunate advent of Zoom Dysmorphia, as discussed here by appearance assessment service QOVES Studio. Regularly seeing ourselves on camera—particularly, on poor quality web cameras—has led to increased insecurity and, consequently, cosmetic surgeries, as observed in this study published by ScienceDirect.

This all gives shape to a peculiar riddle—how do we accurately determine the mental wellbeing of our teams when we’re not physically around them? The conundrum has become so pressing that video service providers like Google are attempting to enhance our appearance in virtual meetings.

Turning the cameras off may give us some ephemeral reprieve from insecurity, but at the expense of allowing technology to further separate the pieces of the greater puzzle that is human interaction. Thus, perhaps a better solution to the mystery would be to instead deal with the insecurity head on, as expressed here by Media Psychology Research Director, Pamela Rutledge, PhD.

Recognize that web cameras are notorious for poor image quality—and that we aren’t alone in not looking our best on-screen. What’s important isn’t how well we navigate the superficial standards of “selfie” culture, but that we remain genuine—that we remain human.

Equally important is that we see our colleagues as fellow humans, that we discern the dialogue told by someone’s demeanor and not just their words.

“There’s language in her eye, her cheek, her lip,
Nay, her foot speaks; her wanton spirits look out
At every joint and motive of her body.”
– William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida

Do you have an idea you want to share with an empowered community of self-aware professionals? If you’d like to contribute an idea or article to ‘In The Flow of Work’ on the Evolve blog, just send us a message or submit a post to our Head of Content, Adam Schneider

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