Why Teleconferences Leave You Feeling Empty

By David Ryback, Ph.D.

In this age of high-tech communication, we’re often challenged by the lack of nonverbal data that accompany more natural forms of communication. For example, one reason some of us occasionally find it difficult to communicate over the Internet is that we rely so heavily on facial and body expressions as well as eye contact that we feel somewhat lost when communicating by e-mail, especially when there’s a need for nonverbal cues in the communication. The insertion into e-mails of “emoticons,” little cartoon semblances of smiley faces or other facial expressions, is an attempt to compensate for this lack of eye contact.

We then come to the purpose of videoconferencing, but even that has its limitations. That’s why conference calls by phone seem so sterile. Even though some less verbal associates may be saying very little, there’s a great deal of comfort just seeing them sitting there attentively, in person. It’s also possible they may have something of value to contribute to the conference call but don’t feel comfortable interrupting the flow. A particular individual’s demeanor and facial expression cue us to invite such valuable contribution, which is otherwise lost in a conference call. It’s that aspect of nonverbal communication that makes face to face communication and relationship building so important.

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