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Split-screen or split-personality? How emotional intelligence boosts virtual working

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Video calls and online chats can never fully replace face-to-face communication. So those wanting to boost their careers can use emotional intelligence to better navigate the virtual working world.

11th Aug 2022
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Building relationships in the workplace and having confidence are two of the top most important traits we need. So if your goal for the second half of the year is to get promoted or raise your profile at work, then navigating communication in the hybrid working world is a must.

Misunderstandings happen

I’ve often wondered if my words have been lost in translation when I’ve closed a video meeting with a new client based in a different country to me. I’ve wondered if they really understood what I was saying or whether they were too polite to ask me to repeat something or use different words to express meaning.

The new ways of hybrid and remote working have meant that a more diverse range of talent can be employed in the workplace

Other times I’ve wondered if I spoke with such passion and enthusiasm that they wondered how I managed to take a second to breathe! And of course, there are those times when the tech has failed me, the line has dropped and after you are reconnected, the mood has shifted.

One thing that I’ve never had a problem with when video conferencing is smiling and laughing - when I do this, I always have a 100% success rate.

A virtual perception

Whilst technology is great in facilitating communication, the nuances in human face-to-face contact can be lost. So what are the common problems for those who only have the virtual version of their colleagues to rely on?

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought both challenges and opportunities to the workplace. The new ways of hybrid and remote working have meant that a more diverse range of talent can be employed in the workplace. Those with specific needs also have the opportunity to work in these alternative set-ups.

The problem has been that remote onboarding, however effective that has been, has removed those simple human connections. The opportunity to be social, to have those quick interactions has been hard to replace with technology. Also how you are perceived virtually could be coloured by things outside of your control. For example, your colleague’s internet speed and consistency, and even the sound and picture quality could create a completely erroneous picture of your personality and the way you communicate. 

To avoid the sliding doors or split personality effect with hybrid working, it is important to invest in team bonding opportunities as well as providing space or a dedicated area in your office to create those connections which you can’t replicate working from home. This way you might find that your impression or what you believed of your colleague to be true is a perception created by their ‘virtual persona’ and in real-life they are totally different. I would urge everyone to be empathetic and self-aware when communicating in the virtual space. 

Your mood is amplified on video calls so a frowning or unhappy face is hard to hide

Become a better virtual communicator

Here are four tips to help you to navigate the hybrid working world with emotional intelligence and become a pro at virtual communication:

1. Check for understanding 

It’s helpful to create a phrase that allows you to confirm that you have been understood. You could say, ‘Is there anything I can clarify?' or 'Please share what you have heard so that I can confirm that it's correct or say it differently.’ 

Allowing your colleague or teammate to share whether they have understood without embarrassment or feeling like they're at fault helps us to build stronger relationships which are open and honest. If your colleague does answer, perhaps use different words and ask questions or give further explanations to help them reach the same understanding as you. 

2. Acknowledge your feelings 

Your mood is amplified on video calls so a frowning or unhappy face is hard to hide. The opposite is true of a smiling face, which helps to create a positive vibe. If you’re not feeling as good as you might like, acknowledge it verbally with colleagues can help them to adapt their communication accordingly and avoid any miscommunication. Be an emotional intelligence hero and share that you’re feeling a little bit off as it will help you to be better understood and potentially cheered up too! 

It’s important to commit to becoming more self-aware so that you are a more effective communicator

3. Be human

We know that video conferencing killed the ‘watercooler chat’. Instead of trying to recreate these moments, share something appropriate that’s non-work related like your favourite food, the weather or a hobby that you’re involved in. Building personal connections helps to connect at a deeper level. Creating morale in this way is crucial in this new way of working and helps us adapt. 

4. Ask for feedback 

It’s important to commit to becoming more self-aware so that you are a more effective communicator. It is important to ask for feedback regularly. Try using a phrase such as: ‘What’s one way in which I can improve my communication? Or ‘What is one thing that you would find helpful that I could do when I communicate with you?’ Being courageous and asking for feedback helps you to see your blind spots and allows you to improve and learn different ways to communicate more effectively and thus eliminating the split-personality problem caused by video conferencing. 

Interested in this topic? Read Leading remotely in times of crisis.

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