How to read body language during video calls
With so many businesses relying on Zoom and Skype calls to keep their business going, their clients served, and their employees connected, understanding how to read someone’s body language during a video call is more important than ever to keep communication effective and meaningful. Lisa Mitchell, Communications Expert & Founder of Power Body Language explains how:
1) Are You Connecting?
After everyone has finally gotten logged in and figured out how to mute themselves, it’s time to get everyone feeling connected as a valued participant in the meeting. No one wants to just be talked at, they want to be part of the conversation so make sure that you acknowledge them and expressly invite them to participate.
Look for non-verbal cues of engagement during the start of the meeting:
Eye contact: are the participants making eye contact with you or others on the call? It shows they are feeling connected and ready to listen. Lack of eye contact can signal discomfort or be a key that they haven’t given you their full attention and need to close out of distractions before you begin.
2) Are You Holding Their Attention?
It is really easy for people to wander off, even during a video call. Just because they are appearing on the screen doesn’t mean that they are engaged or paying attention in a valuable way.
Body Language cues to look for that show they’re paying attention:
Active listening cues: look for them to be nodding their head in agreement/disagreement as you discuss key ideas.
Leaning In: are participants actually leaning in closer to their screens during key points of the meeting or while they share their ideas? Leaning in shows engagement and interest.
3) How Do They Feel About What’s Happening?
Watching and understanding the body language cues that your meeting participants are displaying can help you know how they are feeling about and reacting to the ideas that are being discussed.
Unfortunately, not everyone is going to love the idea that is presented, and it’s important to know who you might need to win over or spend more time convincing if you see negative cues coming your way. There is a whole set of “negative non-verbal cues” that indicate discomfort, fear, or avoidance. Here a few to look for with the participants that can help you know where you stand:
Withdrawn or “shrunk in” body posture: If you notice that a normally open and outspoken team member is now keeping his/her head down, rolling their shoulders forward, and avoiding eye contact during the meeting, this may indicate that they are feeling insecure, uncertain, or unsafe/overwhelmed with the ideas that are being discussed.
Exhibits aggressive mannerisms or behavior: Look for clenched fists or a clenched jaw, taking a step forward in a confrontational manner when trying to resolve conflict, or even physical contact such as pushing, shoving, or threatening. These cues indicate frustration or anger is the driver or internal feelings and tell you that your child may be acting out due to fear, overwhelm, or uncertainty.
Expresses “fake happiness”: Some adults will exhibit cues of “fake happiness” such as a false or forced smile to try to avoid conflict or to just get the meeting over with more quickly. Genuine smiles are to be celebrated, but a forced or fake smile is a warning sign that they are outwardly expressing something that they don’t internally feel.
Your job is to notice the difference between the two and if you notice the fake or forced smile, take the time to ask them specifically how they feel about the topic/idea, if they have anything to add, or what they are most in agreement with. This will open up a dialogue in a non-threatening way and give them a chance to outwardly express what they may internally be feeling.
You don’t want to be suspicious, but you also don’t want to miss a cue that indicates they are hiding feelings or don’t feel safe to express themselves. Video calls can feel a little threatening to some people and you want to be mindful of and sensitive to that as you lead them.
Being clued in to the body language you’re seeing during your video calls helps give you the data you need as a leader to be proactive in helping your team to engage, feel seen, and be heard in the way they desire to be.
For more from Lisa Mitchell, visit powerbodylanguage.com or connect on Instagram: @lisamitchellindy .