How to Show up Strong in a Digital World

influence leadership virtual leadership Dec 14, 2020

In Dale Carnegie’s day (How to Win Friends and Influence People), friends were earned with a firm handshake and a warm smile. The idea that winning friends today has been reduced to an “accept” or “like” button is concerning. And with pandemic cases and physical-distancing measures on the rise, handshakes are a long way from re-entering the mainstream.

What is the current ratio of your face-to-face vs. digital interactions? For many people, emails, texts, tweets and shares were already their most common way of communicating prior to COVID-19. Even telephone use has dropped off. We live in a digital world where the full value of human connection is traded for efficiency of transactions and getting things done. The pressure to respond immediately gets in the way of taking time to craft meaningful responses and to include niceties.

Our tech-centred world creates both opportunities and challenges. Messaging speed is instantaneous. Communication channels have multiplied. Networks and communities reach beyond borders. However, all this technology makes it easier than ever to send the wrong message that ends up offending the receiver. Hints of emotion or intent, normally delivered through body language, tone, pitch, and volume are lost. Every word and non-verbal cue have never been more scrutinized or more important. Here are some tips for showing up strong in a digital world:

By email, text or instant messaging:

  • Focus on what the other person needs.
  • If you don’t know what they need, ask.
  • Take time for niceties, e.g., How are you? How was your weekend? Enjoy your family holiday!
  • Smile through your words.
  • Add emojis or emoticons when appropriate.

By video conference:

  • Turn on your camera.
  • Lean in and be expressive.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Use people’s names.
  • Listen more than you talk.
  • Stay muted when it’s not your turn to talk.

Video conferencing helps to convey non-verbal cues, but many people opt to join with their camera turned off, forfeiting the powerful connection they could be making with a simple smile. Even with cameras on, video is still not as impactful as in-person communication. For this reason, the way you present yourself online is perhaps even more important than how you conduct yourself in person. Virtual meetings can build or erode trust. Thankfully, there are a few simple things you can do to show up strong in a digital environment. We’ve compiled a free virtual meeting checklist that you can use to make the most of your digital face-to-face time. Download it now and master your next virtual meeting.


About the Author

Sandra McDowell, MA, PCC, CPHR, SHRM-SCP

As the founder and voice behind eLeadership Academy™, Sandra McDowell helps leaders and organizations increase performance and well-being by leveraging insights from cognitive science to harness the untapped power of the brain.

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