Since more and more communications are online, it’s essential to understand how we communicate in a face-to-face situation to make online communications more like face-to-face. We are not aware of the many things we do in a face-to-face encounter that shows we are engaged and participating in a conversation. It helps to take a moment and reflect on those elements and techniques.
In face-to-face situations, we respond with ques, small gestures that communicate we are listening. One such example is to look at the person who is talking. Another is to smile and nod in agreement with an idea. How we use our eyes to tell people we are present is a critical factor. Do we look and think of something else while we are looking? If we do, the other person may feel that we are not engaged and not connected to what the person is saying. There is an intensity in our eyes when we are fully engaged. Think of something else while listening, and that intensity fades. We project a sense that we have disengaged and left the conversation. That’s why it’s essential to be present and mindful when communicating.
One of the ways to become mindful is to tell stories. In everyday face-to-face conversations, we use stories that include analogies and metaphors for the ideas we want to express. Rarely do we tell just the facts or the bare bones. We encapsulate our messages with embellishments that make the conversation come alive. Storytelling puts our eyes, voice, and body language in sync. We become fully engaged in what we are saying. We use gestures and facial expressions and even our hands to highlight what we are saying If you use your hands online to express something, remember not to use them near your face. These techniques can make online communications seem more like face-to-face.
One of the problems in communicating online is something called listening fatigue. When people are listening online, they tend to stare and be still. Many people show no emotions at all. The danger of staring is that it creates listening fatigue. The longer participants listen, the lower the attention span becomes. To avoid listening fatigue, include interaction. When we are in a face-to-face conversation, the exchange is very lively. People interrupted each other with questions and ask for explanations. That’s when the interaction between speaker and listener becomes interesting. The back and forth creates a visceral experience for both.
Don’t let communicating online change the way you communicate. You can apply the characteristics from face-to-face conversations to online communications. Engagement benefits both the speaker and the listener. Being natural and reacting even when you are listening can improve your attention span. Communicating online is a tool, so use it to express how you feel and what you want to say.