There's great news below for socially anxious people.
By now, virtual meetings are no longer the novelty they once were for many of us back in 2020; now they're simply a fact of life. In fact, where business travel once prevailed as the only way to connect with clients, boardmembers, and associates cross-country or internationally, the version of yourself that you present to others on video calls is often the only version of you that people get to see.
This phenomenon has given a new angle to research in the field of impression management, which is the art and science of managing the way other people see you. Today, the importance of impression management cannot be overstated. As we navigate our new hybrid world of in-person and virtual interactions, understanding the social comfort levels of team members can significantly influence the effectiveness of communication in every context of work communication. New research conducted by experts Hasagani Tissera and Marie-Catherine Mignault, and published in the article "Can You Tell How You Come Across On Zoom?" in Harvard Business Review reveals some fascinating insights.
Tissera and Mignault's research delves into the question of whether in-person meetings or videoconferences are more effective for gauging a colleague's perception of you. Their findings suggest that the answer largely depends on the individual's level of social anxiety. For those who experience heightened social anxiety, videoconferencing platforms like Zoom can level the playing field, allowing them to be as aware of their impression as someone who is feeling more secure.
The research further reveals that socially anxious individuals tend to feel more comfortable online than in person. This comfort can reduce worry and enhance their ability to gauge how they are perceived over Zoom. Interestingly, the study found that in in-person events, more socially anxious people were less aware of the impression they made compared to more secure individuals. However, on Zoom, this disadvantage disappeared, with both more and less anxious individuals equally aware of the impressions they made on others.
Use Zoom To Your Advantage
But does this mean that Zoom exclusively benefits the socially anxious while disadvantaging the secure? Not necessarily. Tissera and Mignault's research suggests that Zoom provides a slight boost to the socially anxious, perhaps due to increased comfort or the ability to self-monitor using the self-view feature. However, it also appears to hinder more secure individuals' ability to detect how they come across, possibly because the self-view feature makes them feel self-conscious and distracted.
In conclusion, while platforms like Zoom can be beneficial for impression management, particularly for socially anxious individuals, it's crucial not to completely avoid in-person interactions. As leaders, we must adapt our communication strategies to ensure effective impression management in a hybrid world.
Tissera, H., & Mignault, M. C. (2023). If you want to make a good impression and gauge what a colleague actually thinks of you, should you meet in-person or over videoconference? Harvard Business Review.