For the past few years I have been following several workplace studies all showing a troubling trend – workplace conflict is on the rise. Many are blaming use of technology, more virtual interactions, more diversity of participants in those interactions in a more connected world, and the shear stress of doing more with less. We have seen the research on how 90% of traditional face-to-face communication is non verbal. Our behavior while communicating has always been just as important as what we are actually saying.
In the workplace today, because so much more communication is not face-to-face, there are a new set of non verbals that are equally important as the traditional non-verbals (body language). Some are calling this “virtual behavior.” Think of being on a call with a colleague from another city and hearing typing on the keyboard in the backgroung as you are talking. Many view this new non verbal as a sign that the other person is not listening. Or being on a conference call and getting emails from people that are on the call. Or asking a question to a person in a virtual team call and not hearing back. Or electronic communication where we often read a lot into who is copied, how long it takes to respond, and how short or long the response is. Even in social media, what we chose to “like” or not like, what we are following and responses to certain posts/emails versus non-responses to others sends a message to others. All these constitute the new non-verbals and communicate as much if not more about you than you may think, the same way that traditional non-verbals do. These cues or miscues easily and often times incorrectly, change the EQ temperature of a person, a situation, a group resulting in even more conflict. As leaders, we need to pay attention to them as they are increasing compromising effective communication.
This week, on every non face-to-face interaction you have, virtual or electronic, pay attention to both what you are non-verbally communicating and also to how the non-verbals of others is impacting either you or others in the interaction. Notice how the EQ temperature can change. Be a coach, and provide feedback to the folks on your team so that all can collaborate more effectively.