In this 2010 video, conceptual and perfomance artist Marina Abramovic is at the Museum of Modern Art where, unknown to her, a former partner, Ulay, will join her on the set. I love this clip because it really helps us understand the power of body language and why it is so hugely important to our communication.
THE IMPACT OF DIGITAL COMMUNICATION
Two intertwined streams - spoken language (verbal) and body language (non-verbal) give us the information we need to decode the messages we receive from persons with whom we are communicating.
Over the last few months when, for many, communication has largely been taking place on Zoom or Facetime or WhatsApp, the limited ability to "read" body language on these platforms has left us feeling frustrated and irritable. Frozen smiles or disembodied heads floating against virtual backgrounds confuse our brain and many of us have found ourselves trying to compensate for the lack of body languge by exaggerating our voices (yes, we are talking louder now) as we try to project meaning through cyberspace.
BETTER COMMUNICATION IN ONLINE MEDIATION
Needless to say, the chances of miscommunication have grown due to our increased reliance on our devices to communicate with each other. In mediations which I conduct online, I now position yourself in front of my laptop camera in a way that my torso and arms can be seen so that more of my body language can be "read" by the party with whom I am speaking.
For that same reason, if I am using my phone, I prop it up and stand away from it instead of holding it in my hand. I urge the parties in the mediation to do the same thing and it has made a huge difference to the quality of the interaction.
REFLECT ON YOUR OWN USE OF BODY LANGUAGE
As you watch the video, pay attention to how much information you can gather from the artist, the person she is interacting with, and from the crowd of onlookers, without a single word being uttered. Then, think about your own body language. My challenge to you is to commit to doing one thing to improve your use of this important tool in the digital space. Good luck!