In meetings, choose shorter statements, and avoid writing angry emails, advises communication expert Dr. Škvareninová
"If someone speaks for an hour, they should be aware that people perceive them in the first 10 and last 5 minutes. At the beginning of a meeting, say what you want attendees to remember," says Dr. Oľga Škvareninová from the Department of Language Communication at FMK in an interview for the SPECTRUM Tower portal.
Communication experts refer to the "7-38-55" rule, stating that 55% of the message is conveyed through body language, 38% through tone of voice, and 7% through verbal expression. How have the pandemic years of extensive virtual meetings affected this ratio? Does it still apply?
Most people incorrectly interpret that this rule applies to all types of communication. However, its author, Albert Mehrabian, mentions on his website that the "7-38-55" rule applies only to emotional communication when a person talks about their feelings and attitudes. In work-related communication—unless we argue, yell at each other, or profess love—it doesn't apply. Here, language conveys 30% of information, and non-verbal communication, including voice tone, written expression, and body language, conveys the remaining 70%. During work meetings, we convey verbally more than 30% of information.
During the pandemic, when we wore masks or respirators, we couldn't see facial expressions, but we could see the eyes. Everything reflects in them—whether a person is happy, tired, in love, or angry. In face-to-face communication, I focused on the eyes and also the lower part of the body, as we can see from the feet whether a person wants to communicate or end the conversation.
When connected online with students, I tried to have a background that wouldn't distract them. From my own experience and conversations with students, I found that during online meetings, we focus more on what is around a person than on the speaker's face.
So, what do you recommend for increasing focus and eliminating distractions during online meetings?
During online meetings, it's essential not to have only the speaker's face on the monitor all the time but to change the visual perception. For example, use a presentation with an image illustrating what the person is talking about or an activity for the listeners. Being fully focused, especially in online-mediated communication, is challenging. After five minutes, a person stops perceiving, and after about fifteen minutes, their attention is almost zero. Therefore, it's necessary to engage more senses than just hearing.
Many elements we know from body language in real life are distorted in the online environment. However, our brain evaluates them the same way as when communicating with people in person. When several faces look at us from the monitor, we feel that all these people are in our intimate zone. This zone is reserved for only two people, such as spouses, partners, or parent and child. In no case is it for so many people, especially not for so many colleagues. Suddenly, we are non-verbally overloaded and unable to communicate effectively.