Digital body language for the post-pandemic period

The awkward stopping of a Zoom call. Brusque, vague email. The meeting invitation has no context. If online interactions are too easy to understand, effective communication is essential. As the author of a new book Digital Body Language, Erica Dhawan, MBA ’12, trains corporate leaders to connect well in this new era of remote work, with clients from the U.S. Army to Pepsi to Deloitte.

His mission was extremely personal, rooted in his memories of a shy Pittsburgh elementary school.

“My parents are immigrants in India, which means we speak Hindi at home. When I came to school, I was the quietest kid in the class, ”he recalls. “One of the strengths I have developed because I am so shy is the ability to observe and interpret body language. I look at famous women with their heads tilted to the side, cool kids kneeling during school assemblies. I really tried to assimilate to the world of American body language.

Fast forward 30 years, and he uses that hard intuition to decode a digital-first world where visual and written notifications are more important than ever. In addition to his writing, he has delivered keynotes to Fortune 500 companies — over the past five years, at a rate of 40 to 70 speeches per year.

“We are all immigrants to the world of digital body language,” he said. “I am committed to building a knowledge and training movement for my supposed skills in the new post-pandemic era.”

Those skills depend on what he calls the intelligence connection. The concept, which prioritizes deep, quality interactions, is very different from the usual measures of virtual success: number of Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, or Zoom meetings per day.

“We live in a digital communication crisis, where the reaction is to connect more rather than connect intelligently,” he said. People with connection intelligence understand what meetings need to be called, and when to directly look at the camera during a Zoom to alert attention: “They know never to be confused. the ease of clarity, that careful reading is new listening, and writing is clearly new. empathy. ”

The new pandemic-induced ways of working, he believes, could allow workplaces to be “more geographical, less visually biased in traditional body language, and more creative. about engaging anyone, anywhere, to be part of a solution. ”

Dhawan has two children and enjoys Bollywood dance in his free time. Dancing, she said with a laugh, “taught me that when we connect with others, everything is a show.”

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