When it comes to communication and building rapport, everyone does it a little differently. There are several ways we are innately different in communication – do you communicate better standing side by side or face to face? Do you like to talk during an activity like golf or racquetball, or do you prefer to sit down face to face with no distractions of movement?
Part of my work is helping people become better at communicating. I want my clients to match and thrive in any social setting, so that effective communication is never a barrier to their goals.
Another part of my job is helping business leaders make sure that their workplaces accommodate various personality types, so they can make every employee thrive in a comfortable environment while concurrently developing their people’s communication skills to make the workplace more cohesive in the bigger picture.
Our in-person meetings have been temporarily moved to virtual environments with Zoom, Skype and other similar services becoming a central part of our workplaces. While technology has made it easy to be close to each other even while we are geographically distant, these services also heavily favor certain type of communicators – those who prefer face to face conversations with little to no movement while excluding those who might have their most impactful conversations while walking and talking en route to pick up a cup of coffee. This simply means that when you are in a Zoom meeting, you are stuck to your chair and you are looking your teammates head on. This will be naturally comfortable for many, but a huge pain point for others.
If your goal is to get the most out of every employee you have working for you, as well as to make all your employees as comfortable as possible, here are some things to consider for your meetings moving forward:
1) Consider a mixture of phone meetings (or video-less Zoom meetings) and video meetings: “Motion creates emotion.” This is a mantra in high-energy sales floors across the country and for some a physiological necessity. Taking away the video component of a call takes away the potential of reading facial cues and body language, but it frees people up to move around and inject energy into your meetings. Afterall, someone might do their best communication while shooting free throws in their driveway or while walking on the treadmill but seem lackadaisical if you make them sit in front of their computer. Consider also the demographics of your office since studies show that females skew towards preferring face-to-face interactions while males prefer side-by-side interaction during activities (research involving transgender and non-binary individuals is not yet as prevalent).
2)Consider a format to the meetings that brings everyone to the foreground: Speaking with several of my more reserved clients, I have heard complaints that it is harder to “get in” to a discussion via Zoom. In person, people rely on visual cues to jump in or natural conversation rhythms to give an opening for new ideas – all of which can be lost in large video meetings. If voices are getting lost in these new formats, make a concerted effort to engage all the voices in the meeting – perhaps “calling on” everyone during a meeting or reserving a time for everyone to contribute if desired.
3)Invest in communication training: While we all have our natural preferences, many of us learn to overcome our preferences so that we can successfully communicate in our workforces. People have often done that unconsciously throughout their lives but will now need to be more intentional since our workforces have changed so rapidly and these new muscles will need to be developed. Consider investing in a brief training with an amazing coach who knows how to teach rapport, or assigning a section on rapport from a book like The Essential Guide to Neurolinguistic Programming. A small investment here will not only help your current situation, but will improve your office forever. People who cold call in sales are well practiced in developing rapport using tonality and even breathing rhythms to build bonds over the phone, but people who have worked entirely in person will have less ability developed here. This is a skill that can and should be developed.
Now is the perfect time to get proactive and develop the relevant communication skills that will help you thrive. For business owners and executives, it’s the ideal time to intentionally design the remote workforce so that every employee has a chance to thrive.
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