Communication Digital Style


¾ of F2F communication is non-verbal

70% of communication in teams is virtual


It is suggested that the adverse effects of modern virtual communication are as follows:

  • Innovative behaviours fall by over 90%
  • Trust declines by 80%
  • Role and goal clarity decline by 75%
  • Satisfaction decline by more than 50%

There’s now a concept called Digital Body Language.

These are the cues and signals that we send in digital conversations that clarify the subtext of our messages.

What has changed?

  • The volume of email together with how you show up on the list of recipients.
  • Response time – the implication is that it is expected to be instant.
  • Well – you are working from / at home after all so the assumption is that you are available 24/7.
  • Trust levels have potentially plummeted as what you do can’t be monitored.
  • Standards might have dropped regarding punctuation, grammar, spelling.
  • Emojis proliferate spilling over from social media protocols
  • The medium by which communication takes place has changed. Is everyone’s preferred choice the same?
  • Who gets priority as the main recipient? Who is relegated to CC or BCC? Who is forgotten and receives a FWD? The clue is often the RE in the subject line.
  • Has wording become more relaxed? Does this show up in the e-signature?

Top tips to deal with Digital Body language:

  • Making assumptions causes confusion especially thinking that being brief is the best strategy. Clarity is crucial. People need to know the purpose.
  • Important to say what you are thinking as no one is a mind reader and the cues that would be picked up in F2F interactions are either missing or veiled by the screen. Important to know what the purpose of a meeting is for example. Important to clarify prioritising and the time scale. Important to understand why this group of people are the best to carry out a task for example.
  • Be patient. Remember to listen. Remember to stop already speaking whilst listening to a colleague. Pay attention. Remember that not everyone is fast paced nor reflective. So crucial to have virtual platform protocols for example how to enable all contributions can be shared and welcomed ad valued. Pause and breath before snapping to conclusions especially the unfounded or not relevant ones.
  • Hold the belief that everyone is working with best intentions looking to appreciate what works well and what could work even better. Be judgement free. Being clear always helps to avoid misunderstandings. And big clue – pick up the phone as that is a technique we often forget.
  • Remember John Farmer’s song ‘ You’re the voice’. Be the voice. Your contribution is essential. So get over yourself and use your voice. Be authentic. Ditch the fluffy words or words that diminish that women often use. Say it as it is in a respectful way.

How to devise a workable protocol or agreement to make sure virtual meetings, communications, briefings for example?

  • Communication: which is the preferred platform? Which is the most effective platform for particular meetings? The routine ones, the discussion ones, the creative brainstorming ones, the planning ones
  • Digital body language needs clarity. What works best – summaries or the detailed version? Abbreviations can be confusing especially when not everyone is in the loop / on the same page.
  • Trust – be clear regarding levels of decision making and who takes responsibility for them. Delegation is essential. Once delegated have it be delegated versus micro-managing
  • How to discover everyone’s preferred ways of communication? What is the purpose of the communication? Which is the one that works for all rather than someone’s favourite. Make it fit for purpose.
  • How to encourage communication from each participant versus those that have surfeit of words and tend to dominate discussions, meetings, communication? Maybe to remember to ask for contributions then listen rather than stating your opinion first which absolutely stifles discussion and only encourages the bad habit of agreeing with you the leader.


Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture North America

 inspired leaders and aspiring leaders with these words:

 “Employees who write succinct and to the point emails are valued and others who don’t may lose their career prospects.

When you become a leader, this skillset becomes even more important because you need to influence people at scale.”