I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I am an introvert. That’s why you’ll never see me talking to video in my Instagram Stories or conducting live Q&As.
But, like it or not, the coronavirus crisis has made video conferencing ubiquitous. Overnight, video meetings, happy hours, and quiz nights are popping up, all requiring us to be on camera, which can often be uncomfortable for us introverts.
Of course, not all introverts are the same. While some shrink entirely from the spotlight, others can manage being on video but might find it difficult to break into the conversation, or feel completely drained afterward. Honestly, even extroverts can struggle with this new medium with its glitches and delays.
Here are some tips to help you navigate this new normal and feel more comfortable in video conferencing situations.
Prepare yourself and your environment.
Control the aspects of your environment that you can so that you feel more confident in the situation. Some things to pay attention to:
Set your computer eye-level
Make sure your hair, makeup (if you wear it) and clothing is presentable.
Ensure you have good lighting on your face, not behind you.
Remove anything distracting or personal from the field of view.
Create a calm environment for yourself without a lot of interruptions or ambient noise or activity.
Be careful not to allow this concern for your appearance and environment to tip over into self-consciousness. Rather, allow the knowledge that you are looking your best give you a boost of confidence to carry you through.
Give yourself an advantage for your meeting.
Introverts process information differently than extroverts. While extroverts think best while speaking, introverts need space to process information internally. On a video conference, when ideas are flowing, the silence of introverts can be interpreted as disinterest or lack of expertise.
So how to combat this? Before the meeting, approach the organizer and ask for relevant information. This will allow you to sit with the information, form your thoughts, and be prepared to contribute.
Do you find that you are often talked over? Again, before the meeting, ask the organizer if they can look for you to signal that you have a comment, perhaps using the raise hand or the chat feature available on some video conferencing systems.
Another method would be to request that the organizer to ask for comments by going around the virtual “table,” allowing everyone an opportunity to weigh in on the matter.
Try to maintain a baseline smile and good posture to visually communicate openness and friendliness.
Video conferencing can produce a cognitive dissonance; on the one hand, you know that you are home and alone, but on the other hand, you are part of a group, communicating in a virtual space. Many introverts may have the tendency to slip into an “alone” mentality and withdraw into themselves which will be perceived by others on the call. You may have to actively remind yourself to give non-verbal clues while others are talking like nodding or smiling.
Turn off the camera.
While generally speaking, I believe in being on camera to be in solidarity with the group, if you are feeling extreme anxiety, feel free to turn the video off or angle it away from you. You could do this for a few minutes at a time to give yourself a break from being “on.”
Video chats often lag. There are audio and video glitches. “There’s always the question of when are you done talking and when the next person should talk,” says author Susan Cain. “Everybody seems a little awkward, because the technology is so awkward.”
So embrace the awkwardness. Keep your attitude light and be willing to laugh at yourself, even if you accidentally turn yourself into a potato .
Zoom fatigue is a real thing. “Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat,” says professor Gianpiero Petriglieri. “Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy.”
So don’t be too hard on yourself if you find yourself feeling exhausted and run down after a meeting. This mode of communication is neither normal nor comfortable.
If you have several video calls scheduled, space them out with enough time between to refresh and recharge. And as with any social event, feel free to decline the invitation if you are just not up for it.
However you feel about them, video conferencing may remain popular after we’re no longer in need of social distancing so giving yourself the tools to manage the anxiety now will serve you well in the future.