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How someone stands and holds themselves while they communicate is very telling. Are they angry, dismissive, or bored? Or are they engaged and excited to join the conversation?

But as more work happens digitally, it can be harder to gauge someone’s thoughts and emotions through traditional body language. Now, we have to learn how to understand and communicate with digital body language.

According to Erica Dhawan, best-selling author of Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection, No Matter the Distance, digital body language is the cues and signals that make up the subtext of our messages. It helps people build trust and connections without physical proximity. When you communicate with someone in person, it’s easy to see if they are distracted or bored and to tailor your message to gain their attention. But when communicating digitally, it can be challenging to know if other people are engaged and to clearly share a message without it being misconstrued.

Erica breaks digital body language down into four key principles:

  1. Valuing Visibility. This means valuing people’s time, inboxes, and schedules. When hosting a meeting, we have to think like a TV host more than an office host to be visible and get people’s attention.
  2. Communicating Carefully. Hasty communication can break relationships. Take your time to write clearly and read messages carefully so that your message makes sense and you understand what the other person is saying.
  3. Collaborating Competently. Digital collaboration requires involving everyone and listening to everyone’s ideas. As digital collaboration increases, we have to fight the proximity bias of rewarding people we see more often, even if they aren’t performing well.
  4. Trusting totally. Digital body language comes down to assuming the best intent and showing our vulnerability. We’ll all make mistakes or have misunderstandings at some point, but we have to trust other people and bounce back quickly from our mistakes.

Communication is crucial to success, especially in the new world of work driven by digital collaboration. Mastering digital body language to build trust, showcase your ideas, and make connections with people around the world can set you up for success and help work move forward more smoothly than ever.

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