Miscommunication at the workplace is far too common for us to ignore its impact on work and interpersonal relationships. 

The challenge seems to have become magnified by the fact that we are now working remotely. Now more than ever, it’s become important to learn how to read between the lines. 

What is the tone of an email? What does the body language in a Zoom meeting tell you about your colleague? What are you observing, or more importantly, what are you missing? 

Former FBI agent and mental toughness coach LaRae Quy has some answers. She listed some things to watch out for, and we have adapted some of her points for you below:

1. Notice the body language of people

Do their shoulders droop when they walk? Do they look down while walking? Do they avoid eye contact when they’re speaking to you both in face-to-face meetings and video calls? Is their pitch too low in a video call? All these are symbolic of low confidence or nervousness. In a video call, look out for whether people are sitting upright and listening alertly or leaning back and staring away into space? You can tell they’re disinterested if they begin to slouch or turn away. 

2. Observe their level of interest in a task

While delegating tasks, who volunteers first? Or, when assigned with one, do they seem enthusiastic or indifferent. Observing these clues will allow you to understand what different people in your team are passionate about, and what they find interesting. See if they actually deliver or merely put their hand up for tasks.

3. Watch out for their level of participation in team meetings

When discussing work-related issues, notice whose voice is the loudest. And this doesn’t always have to be the team lead. The loudest voice often denotes the most confident voice, and locating that will help you decide where you stand on the matter being discussed. This becomes especially important while attending virtual meetings, where it’s easy to melt into the background. 

4. Locate your own biases

We all end up falling prey to our own biases while reading others. We need to be aware of this before jumping to any conclusions about people. While working from home, we don’t quite know what someone’s reality is. That is not to say, that we will always be able to keep our biases at bay. But before we rush to react, we need to stop, take a pause, and try and understand where the other person is coming from, instead of projecting how we feel about them.

5. Ask someone you trust

In order to keep your biases in check, talk to people whose judgment you trust about somebody’s behavior . Picking their brains about how they feel, will give you an idea about whether your assumptions are correct or not. If they match what the other person is saying, chances are your observations are correct, and not born out of your biases.

Suha Gangopadhyay is Specialist, Curriculum at Harappa Education. A graduate from University of Oxford, she wants to contribute to the growth of education studies in India, and dwells in a world where books are almighty.

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