1. Sit tall in your chair. Imagine a piece of string pulling you upwards from the top of your head. This prevents your spine from slumping and allows you to breathe deeper – always good in times of stress. Roll your shoulders gently back allowing your chest to open and soften. The aim is to create a strong and flexible physical presence that will subliminally send the message that you’re in control, stable and on top of things – even if you feel like you’re not quite!
2. Make sure you remain aware of your breathing as you speak and listen. If you notice your breathe becoming shallow and high in your chest, allow yourself to take a few deeper belly breaths so that your nervous system settles. A shallow breath always triggers the adrenal-threat response which gives you the sense of being chased by a predator in the jungle. You don’t want that on a zoom call! When you’re feeling wooden, you can bet your breathing is shallow. As we breathe deeper and slower, we calm down our physiology and become more able to digest what’s being said by others. We start to relax and go with the flow. We’re easier to talk with.
3. Ask open-ended questions. A what or how question is always a good start to get the other side talking. Be curious about them as people and what they have to say. How else will you know how to meet their needs or solve their problem if you don’t ask questions, and keep asking questions, til you find out. The best sales people know that the more they listen and the less they talk, the more they win buy-in. Don’t let the the screen stop you asking the important questions that will help your client find the answers they need.
4. Prioritise listening. Too many people talk, and often talk over, and so few listen. And those that do listen are often only pretending to listen whilst their minds are simply ruminating over the next thing to say or do. Meetings rarely get to the point and there’s alot of waffle. So, instead of talking, or thinking about your next few words, focus on the person on the screen and really pay attention to every word they say. Once your focus sharpens, you can then, more crucially, pay attention to what they don’t say. Attempt to read their body language. You won’t always get it right, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes. The trick is to decipher how a person ticks. And, as hard as it sounds, you can even do this through a screen. Simply observe their posture, the tone of their voice and their facial expression. And remember that most people will be anxious beneath the facade. The most generous and productive response is to listen. And what a relief to focus on the other person than to get lost in our own self-consciousness. If you do start to become anxious over what you will say next, bring your attention back to the other person. In doing so, we allow our answers to miraculously come without trying so hard to find them.
5. Stay human. Being online doesnt mean we need to become perfect robots. We can chat about how strange the format is – as it might be for some of us. You don’t need to pretend as if it’s normal if it doesn’t feel that way to you. Aknowledge the awkwardness, have a little laugh about it and then move on to the problem at hand. Humour is always an excellent tonic in times of stress and change.
6. And stay present. With all the anxiety and drama flying around, we are forgetting that the only moment that really matters is the one we have now. And that applies to our virtual communications. We can’t know what the next moment will be. And the last moment has gone – so forget it. Nothing is insurmountable if you simply deal with the very moment you are in. The equipment may fail and you may forget what to say. There may even be some snot on your face which you didn’t realise was there til half way through etc etc .. all of that is fine if you chose to stay present, breathe and accept what is. Panic is useless. Humour always wins. The moment you panic about the next moment is the moment your communication falters. So try to stay with the moment you have. Breathe into it, roll with the punches and let go of expected outcome. Your conversations will become far more fluid, effective.. and exciting!
If you can remember these 6 tenets, you’ll be in good stead to make the next few weeks online much more bearable and productive.