1-Line Summary: Digital Body Language by Erica Dhawan helps you learn subtle cues and signals that we unconsciously give that we give while communicating digitally. And thus helps you avoid any misunderstandings.
Erica Dhawan has studied human innovation and collaboration for over 15 years.
She is an author, entrepreneur, and an award winning keynote speaker.
Digital Body Language Summary [PDF]
Gone are the days when we used to meet physically for a meeting.
Now, most of us use apps like Zoom for video calls.
We now love to chat with our friends instead of calling.
But nobody taught us how to communicate digitally in an effective manner.
Many people still struggle to adapt to this digital body language.
In this digital age, where there are so many mediums and ways, it becomes difficult to figure out how to deliver your message in the best way.
In this book summary, you are going to learn how you can communicate effectively with your teammates or colleagues using digital mediums. And avoid embarrassing mistakes.
This is not just any normal summary, these are the lessons that I have learned after reading this book multiple times and thus it packs more insights.
So without further ado, let’s dive right in.
Lesson #1: Digital body language is way different than traditional body language.
In traditional body language, non-verbal cues matter a lot.
They comprise approx 70-80% of total communication.
Things like handshakes, eye movements, etc. tell the other persons how we are fully at the moment.
But in the case of digital communication, there are only text, emojis, and Gifs these days.
So we don’t realize what the other person is feeling.
People, today, can easily fake their emotions.
For example, if someone is hurt by your words, then he may send you a smiley emoji, and hide his true feelings.
That’s why today it’s very hard to understand the true feelings of the other person while communicating via any digital medium.
Plus, when you talk in person, you answer in real-time.
But when you talk digitally, there is no time limit.
Many people don’t bother to reply the messages unless the other person has more power or authority.
For example, a person might not reply to his friend’s message. But he will guaranteed reply to his boss’s message unless he would like to risk his job.
Also, it’s really hard to make people trust through digital mediums.
We tend to trust people more when we have met them face-to-face.
Because while texting, we can’t see a person’s face. At the back of our minds, we are insecure about who we are communicating with.
That’s not a problem once we know it for sure.
Also, it’s hard to convey your emotions to the other person.
Sometimes, we are busy or misread sentences as we tend to skim when we read anything online.
The complexities of digital mediums only increase when we add more and more people to the conversation.
It’s also confusing to decide which channel is for a particular type of conversation.
The more and more people are talking with each other online, we must learn how to communicate effectively with confidence and earn other people’s trust through our carefully written words.
Today, which emoji or punctuation marks we are using matters more than our body language or non-verbal cues that we use in traditional body language.
Lesson #2: Understand the power and trust dynamics between you and the other person.
The author talks about the power and trust matrix in this book.
Before you talk to a person, you must know where you stand in terms of power and how much trust there is in your relationship.
There could be 4 scenarios (as stated in the book):
- “You have high power, but low trust.”
- “You have low power, but high trust.”
- “You have high power and high trust.”
- “You have less power and less trust.”
It depends on the person you are talking to.
If the other person is your boss, you have less power.
And if you are the other person’s boss, you have more power.
When it comes to trust, the more trust there is between you and the other person, the more informal you can be. And the communication would be quick.
Imagine your boss sends you a vague email.
How would you respond?
In this case, if the trust between both of you is high, you can be quick and ask your boss to provide clarification.
But if the trust is less, you can be a bit formal in your message and request your boss to provide clarification.
Note the word “clarification.”
Clarity is the key to effective communication.
The power and Trust matrix won’t help if you are not communicating clearly.
Without clarity, there is no understanding between both parties participating in digital communication.
Also, don’t be disappointed if the other person doesn’t trust you. People have their own ways of judging others.
You don’t need to control other person’s thoughts. Sometimes, people won’t trust you. They will doubt your every word.
That’s okay. Don’t let this discourage you from being a better communicator.
You have to try your best to increase your trust and be clear in what you are saying.
Lesson #3: Choose the right medium and channel to convey your message based on the situation or need.
Often people choose the wrong means of communication.
For example, if you are in a hurry, you should not send an email and wait for a reply. Instead, you should directly call the person or ask for a meeting on Zoom or any other such application.
In an urgent case, a lot of text-based messages won’t be of much help and instead increase confusion as you won’t be having much time to properly read and explain.
On the flip side, if there is no urgency, you can send a nice email to your colleague and allow him/her to reply at their own pace.
Again, it depends on the other person, if there is high trust between you and the other person, then it’s much easier to call instantly without bothering much.
When you are doing professional communication, usually email is preferred.
It is very common for businesses or organizations to maintain most of their digital communication via email.
It’s always better to have a professional email instead of using Gmail.
A professional email helps you build trust quickly by making a good first impression.
The thing is:
People have stereotypes.
So they judge a lot based on their first impression and pre-existing beliefs.
And unfortunately, it can’t be changed.
For instance, the author’s name is Erica Dhawan.
She also faces a similar problem. Whenever she goes on a meeting after having an email conversation, people expect an Indian woman. But in reality, she is not.
In the same way, when people see a professional email (like firstname.lastname@example.org), they instantly make judgments about the person sending that email.
So always pick the right medium for conversation.
The same message may be perceived differently based on which channel or medium you are using to communicate.
The same message send via email looks more professional than if it were sent on Whatsapp or Messenger.
Lesson #4: Avoid any sort of confusion.
The author talks about a lot of cues that we all send while sending messages.
The problem is:
Many people don’t even realize that they are sending those subtle signals.
When you are replying quickly to a person, you show that you are taking the conversation seriously and value the other person’s time.
On the flip side, if you are delaying a lot to reply, it sends a signal that you have an ego or don’t give much priority to the conversation.
This is just an example. There is no guarantee what a person might think.
People think differently.
Another example is:
Let’s say you are don’t bother about formalities and are very direct in what you say. Now some people might like it while some might get offended by it and think that you are a rude person.
See how these subtle things affect our relationships?
That’s why you must pay attention to your digital behavior.
The best way to avoid any confusion is to write clearly and think before you type.
After you type, check if you have written everything properly or not.
Think about who you are sending the message to.
Will the other person understand you properly?
Is there any word that may confuse the other person?
Tell people in your message and give them an idea if you want an urgent reply or clearly tell them that they have so and so days to reply.
The better the person on the other side understands your message and expectations, the smoother will be the flow of information while communicating.
Using these simple techniques, you can minimize the confusion and avoid lots of unwanted misunderstandings.
Especially, in workplaces, even little misunderstandings can create disasters.
The author talks about carefully using Cc and Bcc while emailing anyone. If there is no need to include other people in your conversation, don’t add people in Cc or Bcc section.
Also, pay attention to who you add there. Both Cc and Bcc are for different purposes. Understand how and when they are used.
The author has explained their use very beautifully in this book.
Lesson #5: Appreciate the other person’s time while talking digitally.
These days, people have a bad habit of using ultra-short words like:
- ‘k’ or ‘kk…’ for ‘okay’
- ‘am’ for ‘I’m’
- ‘….’ for so many things.
- mm… hm… hmmm….
These are great to save time.
But they often hurt the feelings of other people. These time-saving letters don’t show appreciation for the time of other people.
Imagine you wrote a 500-word email to someone and the other person replies ‘k… will c.’
This is disheartening, isn’t it?
You spent a lot of time thinking about your message and the other person doesn’t even bother to even write a single sentence.
It sends a signal to you that the other person doesn’t acknowledge your effort or gives more priority to other things.
This is a lesson every person needs to learn these days.
We should not take other people’s time for granted.
If someone is giving his/her time to you, you should try to show some kind of appreciation by using phrases like “Thank you so much.” or “I appreciate you.”
But remember, don’t overuse these phrases.
Otherwise, it looks weird and confuses the other person.
Not only do these time-saving letters (like “k” for “okay”) hurt the other person’s feelings, they also confuse the other person.
Remember, while communicating via text, you only have words and emojis to express your emotions. The person on the other side can’t see your body or face.
That’s why one should put extra care while texting or emailing.
Always appreciate people for their time and work.
This also helps in strengthening relationships and builds trust.
Digital Body Language Review
This book is a must-read for professionals who work in any organization.
It’s also best for leaders who want to improve their digital communication skills.
The good thing about this book is:
You don’t get bored. The author has plenty of stories where people messed up due to their lack of knowledge of digital body language. Those stories will entertain you and encourage you to read more.
The bad thing about this book is:
The content is very repetitive. The author repeats the same ideas multiple times across various chapters, which I think was unnecessary.
I recommend that you also watch the course by the author on Digital Body Language on LinkedIn.
You can watch the course for free as my special link gives you 1-Month Free access to LinkedIn Premium.
Overall, this book was a good read.
My rating: 6/10
Now it’s your turn
I hope you enjoyed reading this summary.
Leave a comment and let me know what you think about digital body language.
Have you ever faced any problem while communicating digitally? How did you solve it?
Would love to hear your experience.