I noted with interest this paragraph from author Will Storr [sub’n req’d]. Found within an article explaining the embrace of his own introversion during the various recent lockdowns.
Introverts understand viscerally that human existence is social. It’s how we’re designed to live. Our species evolved to survive principally by controlling other people: to make them like us and want to help and want to work with us. For an introvert to step outside their precious shield of solitude is to find ourselves in an invisible web of negotiation, expectation and manipulation. Every conversation is a minefield of subtext: we communicate constantly not just in words but in tone, body-language and complex dances of eye contact. These are the strange codes by which ordinary human life operates – by which we manipulate and become manipulated.
Without recourse to any psychological training myself – bar a couple of b-school modules – I am intrigued at the possibility that video meeting presence can move the needle of many away from the pole marked ‘extrovert’.
Even those at the end of the scale naturally loud, garrulous or even domineering in-person, can find themselves dialling their natural tendencies down a notch when occupying a small box on-screen.
I’ve seen this move take hold.
The ability to accept the measured paced, single-voice apparatus.
When video calls are chaired what I’d term ‘properly’, may the same affect also move those at the quieter, more reticent, even compliant opposite end, towards the middle of this gauge?
Indeed, could you say that decent video call etiquette makes ambiverts of us all?
If the case, then what helps cajole such potentially broad spectrum of attendees to coalesce around such behaviours which genuinely benefit all?
Let’s examine those “strange codes by which ordinary human life operates”.
Over video, there are ways to make explicit their “minefield of subtext”.
The classic ‘raise hand’, chat pane response and polling certainly help.
Yet we can go farther.
Nobody wants to be bounced into anything. And there’s maybe nothing more destructive to corporate ambitions than a cohort leaving a meeting determined to undo all that’s just been agreed in it.
I remain often amazed at how few meeting arrangers issue a documented agenda for a video meeting.
I understand why not. It is not an overt criticism. It’s just that the power of them can be uniquely harnessed for video like not quite able when IRL. Consequently too many miss a great trick.
So here’s three for starters.
Note firstly that there are subtle ways of compiling an agenda with impact that go way beyond a mere numbered list of half-dozen bulleted items.
Alongside this, there’s the notion of the pre-work.
Yes, yes. I know you know. We all hate the salespeople (& buyers, let’s be fair) that rock-up to a meeting with zero prep for it. Yet asking for something specific to be completed beforehand can help the quality of outcome no end. And don’t be afraid to bar entry for those not completing said assignment. Even if it’s your prospect-in-chief. This does require skill to pull off, but when you do, all benefit.
And thirdly, you need to go deeper than the ‘all agree?’ closing remarks to try and bring each item to a close.
And when combined with voting or priority setting, they can be dynamite.
There’s plenty more besides to get everyone comfortable with appearing on video calls. And to the extent they actively participate in them. As well as happily work after on what was agreed in them.
[Might I be forgiven for suggesting they can be found in my chapters on this in my book on the whole subject too.]
If nothing else, acknowledging such a scale exists to cover the wide range of those on your video call – and have a tactic or two up your sleeve to move them away from its extremes – will on its own make for your next video meeting to be better than you might otherwise have expected.