Digital Body Language – How Digital Communication Works

digital body language

“Digital body language” is a concept that is becoming increasingly important in the modern working world – especially now that many of us are working remotely. After all, everyday communication now takes place almost exclusively digitally.

A large part of physical body language occurs automatically – its reflexive and instinctive, and unintentional. Similarly, a lot of how we interpret another person’s physical social cues happens in our subconscious – we recognize that, for example, crossed arms means someone is closed off or upset; we understand this without even being conscious of this understanding.

That said, we’re not merely reduced to our animal instincts: you can learn to consciously control and channel your body language to improve your communication. Furthermore, this applies to both physical and digital body language.

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What is digital body language?

Digital body language is body language invisible at first glance, that you use in the digital space when you communicate via email, messenger, chat, or conference call. The way in which you communicate digitally says a lot about you, your attitude, your intentions and expectations.

However, digital body language is more difficult to grasp and interpret than physical body language, which inevitably leads to misunderstandings. For effective communication in the workplace, it’s important to learn how to control your own digital body language and correctly interpret that of others.

Digital body language in the new normal

In the new normal, digital-only communication is seen increasingly as a daily occurrence where most misunderstandings can occur. Tiny, barely noticeable reactions often reveal what you think about something without you having to express it verbally. Approval, rejection, uncertainty, joy, anger, surprise, and so much more is revealed by your body language to your counterpart.

But body language – as the name suggests – is physical and therefore not easily transferable to the digital world, where physicality takes a back seat. Nevertheless, it’s not as if you’re not revealing anything about yourself here – quite the opposite.

Even in the new normal, you are constantly sending out signals. Often, however, these signals do not match your intentions, and even more often they are misinterpreted by those on the other end of the call.

understand your digital body language

Challenges of digital body language

In her recently published book, “Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection, No Matter the Distance”, author, speaker, and expert in the field of communication, Erica Dhawan, clearly explains what constitutes digital body language and how you can both manage and improve it.

Using practical examples from her everyday work as a consultant for large companies, Dhawan shows how delicate the topic of digital body language still is, because as digitization advances, the misunderstandings that can arise through digital communication also increase.

Situations we are all familiar with one way or another; an email is misinterpreted, causing worry, prejudice and the feeling of rejection. All of these negative emotions could have been prevented if the author of the email was more aware of their own digital body language and how to correctly express themselves digitally.

Digital body language in the workplace

In the modern working world, with hybrid work models and ever-faster digitization, optimal digital body language is more important than ever. Whether among colleagues, in contact with customers, or in training sessions – digitalization has made how you say something increasingly important. It’s almost more important than what you actually say.

The how conveys an impression about your attitude. Short and concise comes across as unfriendly, too long and detailed is time-consuming and pretentious. Excessive use of smileys and emoticons comes across as insecure, and so on.

Internal communication within a company faces a particular challenge when it comes to digital body language. Cross-team collaboration and digital communication among colleagues who otherwise don’t have much to do with each other is particularly prone to misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

The 4 laws of digital body language

To better understand the challenges and opportunities of modern communication, Erica Dhawan defines the 4 Laws of digital body language:

1. Value visibly