The usual sunny spring weather has returned, at least it looks like it from where I am at the moment, while writing this column – but what is normal weather? The water authority tweeted last week that for the first time in 3 years we had a “normal” amount of spring rain. On the other hand, all sorts of statistics show that we are experiencing the coldest spring since 2013!

What is Normal?

The meaning of what is normal is constantly changing. Up to just over a year ago, it was perfectly normal to shake hands when you met someone. Nowadays, it is normal not to shake hands, and physically meeting other people is a rarity, although that might come back! 

On my website I offer the option to book a 25 minute virtual coffee meeting with me. This option is open to anyone and it’s in frequent use. Most people show up on time for a virtual coffee meeting. Some are a few minutes late, things can happen to delay a prompt start. Sometimes people don’t show up at all!  After 10 minutes of waiting I close the call and send them an email with an option to rebook. Just recently I received an angry email back from someone who didn’t show up. He was on the call about 15 minutes later than the planned start time and waited till the end. Then he blamed me for not showing up!

Being on time is normal, a few minutes late can happen. Entering a meeting more than halfway late without notification and being upset about the other party’s reaction is not normal. That virtual coffee might be a free meeting, but that does not mean that my time isn’t valuable to me. 

At the moment I’m reading Erica Dhawan’s newest book “Digital Body Language”. In physical meetings our body language is an essential element of our communication. Sometimes how we say things portrays a more important message than what we say. Visual communication is important. 

During the pandemic, (and possibly afterwards), we are living a “new normal” when it comes to communicating and collaborating with others. Texts, emails, instant messages, and video calls have become, more than ever before, essential tools. Ultimately visual tools in which our usual body language just doesn’t work. We’ll have to apply, and be aware of, a new body language: Digital Body Language. 

In her book Erica Dhawan describes four laws of digital body language: Value Visibly, Communicate Carefully, Collaborate Confidently, and Trust Totally. In describing these four laws, Erica uses many examples and tips. Showing respect for each other by showing up on time in a meeting is part of Value Visibly. 

Being aware of your digital body language is essential for your work with others, be it in alliances, teams or just one-on-one. If you just read one new book this summer I would highly recommend you consider reading Digital Body Language.*