Digital Body Language Signals You May be Sending Even if You Don’t Intend To

Erica Dhawan
5 min readOct 4, 2022

Our digital body language is made up of the cues and signals that contextualize our digital conversations. Let’s look at some specific examples.

In traditional office settings, we show that we are actively listening by nodding our heads, making eye contact, tilting our heads to one side, and so on. In a digital world, those cues are only sometimes visible, if at all.

Even on video calls, it can be hard to see facial expressions and nods in the small display boxes. Instead, we show that we are actively listening — or not, by using digital responses such as praising someone’s input in an email, using the “like” or “thumbs up” reaction on a text message, or making a detailed comment or question rather than sending *only* a thumbs up response. Even the quickness with which we respond can signal whether we’re paying attention to the conversation and giving it the attention it merits.

What about something as basic as a friendly smile in the break room? In person, smiling is contagious. Research has shown that watching someone else smile causes a sympathetic reaction in our own brains. That’s why we tend to smile back or feel a stronger connection to someone who has smiled at us first.

On phone and video calls we can laugh and wish someone a good weekend, etc — but what about emails, texts, and other non-visual forms of digital communication? We can show friendliness in other ways, often through the tone of our digital messages. We may use more exclamation marks or more emojis in general, eliciting a more casual tone from someone we want to be friendly with.

Next, let’s talk about empathy — the capacity to share and understand someone else’s feelings. Traditionally, we show empathy by maintaining eye contact, moving closer to the other person, or even placing a comforting hand on their shoulder.

Empathy in digital body language looks like quick response times, with responses that answer all questions or statements — not just the easy ones; positive emojis and message reactions when appropriate; and a lack of interruptions during phone and video conferences.

And, the equivalent of physically moving closer to someone is — moving the conversation to a…

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Erica Dhawan

Keynote Speaker on 21st Century Teamwork and Innovation. Author, GET BIG THINGS DONE and DIGITAL BODY LANGUAGE (ORDER HERE: http://bit.ly/3avbJkg)