When we listen in the virtual space we may have mutliple layers of cues - voice only where we can only zoom into the words we hear. In the voice only arena we may be listening for:
Pace- how fast the person is talking
Pitch - how high or low the person is talking
The words they are using
These three things give us a lot of data in terms of the other person we are communicating with Are they relaxed, stressed, in a rush, need to get a decision?
One thing that is missing in voice only virtual platforms is our ability to get visual cues, which usually account for a significant part of the meaning of a message according to different types of research. Without these visual cues (how someone is standing when they speak, or if they are smiling or frowning), we may fall into a couple of traps:
Making assumptions based on what we think - If I have had an experience of communicating with Mary who is usually in a rush, I may make an incorrect assumption without taking the time to listen that she is in a rush
Not checking for understanding. Communication is a two-way street. Did our message get through as intended? Take extra time in a virtual domain to check this out.
What we can do to enhance listening in the virtual space:
Prime people for listening - As virtual facilitators get people "primed" and ready for active listening. Remind people to note pace, pitch and word choice, while checking assumptions and checking for understanding.
Use video streaming facilities where possible - Seeing those we are communicating with. Seeing each other can boost connection and trust levels, two essential elements for great virtual conversations.
Spend more time focusing on listening and communication skills in general
What's going to boost your virtual conversations?
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