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Tips for Harnessing the Power of Digital Body Language

  • By Brooke Ballenger
  • Published: 3/3/2021

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While remote collaboration and digital learning can be successful in the COVID-19 era, it can also be challenging to understand tone, body language and other non-verbal cues that provide meaningful context to communication. Even before the pandemic, virtual communication was prevalent with emails and conference calls. At AFP FinNext 2021 Virtual, Erica Dhawan, globally recognized leadership expert and closing keynote, will discuss new rules, tactics and nuances for effective digital body language to create intellectual and emotional connections — no matter the distance.

Dhawan recently joined Jim Kaitz, president and CEO of AFP, on the AFP Conversations podcast to discuss the ever-growing virtual marketplace and the four “laws” of digital body language from her toolkit.

Value Visibly. It is important for people to feel like their best work is acknowledged and celebrated, and their time is respected. “Today, valuing others visibly is no longer simply about inviting them to dinner or joining a meeting,” says Dhawan. “It's valuing people's time — starting meetings on time, ending on time, sending thoughtful messages and not chronically canceling on others.”

Communicate Clearly. Clear, thoughtful language and word choice is crucial to foster understanding. “Reading messages carefully is the new listening, writing clearly is the new empathy, and sometimes that phone or video call is worth a thousand emails,” said Dhawan.

Collaborate Confidently. Do all the appropriate stakeholders feel identified and aligned? Is there consistency in communications across teams? “One of the things I'd recommend is to set some collaboration best practices in a written format,” Dhawan said. “This way, new hires, for example, will know when to Slack, when to Zoom, when to text, when to email, and what some common rules are around how you can reach people. These simple, written, explicit best practices can go a long way in ensuring those new hires thrive.”

Trust Totally. “One of the things I realized is that there is no rule book for how we build trust and connection in our world today — a world where we need to be able to connect, not just in the office, but anywhere,” said Dhawan. It is important to give one another the benefit of the doubt when facing uncertainty, she said. Trust takes time. You can help it grow by making space for others to show vulnerability and creating moments for informal social connections.

For more information on digital body language, check out Dhawan’s best practice toolkit and pre-order her book, “Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust & Connection No Matter the Distance.”

Listen to the full interview with Erica Dhawan here and learn more about AFP FinNext 2021 Virtual.


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