Monday, December 21, 2020

Minding One’s Virtual Manners

Be grateful, be kind, and mind your virtual manners. It’s actually quite natural for us to be kind; we are born hard-wired to be that way, so keep it up. It doesn’t take much time, and you rarely need any money to be kind. Reach out and check-in. Simple acts of kindness can make someone’s day, including yours. Etiquette skills will help you succeed in your professional and personal life, and they will hold their value long after the pandemic ends. So, put your best virtual foot forward. Your image, your friends and family relationships, even your career, may thank you for the effort.

The Importance of Etiquette in a Virtual World

Technology has offered a lifeline during the Covid-19 global pandemic. In 2020, society made a big move, but we didn’t need to pack a thing, or hire movers. We moved to a new, virtual world, which requires unique skills to navigate and communicate with respect and politeness. Most companies, schools and even churches, now regularly conduct business almost entirely on a virtual stage. Further, technology isn’t all business; it’s a social outlet for friends and family to connect. Every single day, there are more than 300 million users on Zoom, 100 million on Google Meet, and 115 million on Microsoft Teams, among the most popular virtual communication platforms.

So, how are we conducting ourselves in this virtual world? In other words, are we minding our virtual manners? Well, not as well as we should. Virtual comportment begins with respect. It continues with good listening skills, speaking prowess, empathetic leadership, emotional intelligence, gratitude, and ends with kindness. Those are higher level soft skills, but there are some foundational practices that not enough of us consistently employ that can have a huge impact on our ability to communicate more effectively in a virtual environment.

Here are the top 5 ways to mind your virtual manners:

1. Be on time. Whether attending a business meeting or a virtual social gathering, be on time. It’s rude to show up late online, just as it is in person. Being late signals that you and your time are more important than everyone else. Your tardiness also interrupts the flow of the meeting while the leader briefs you on what you’ve missed. Whenever possible, be early. It can be a great time to connect outside the event.

2. Dress the part or dress a notch above what you’d typically wear. Stand out with respect. Please resist the urge to wear your sweats in virtual company. Dress in appropriate attire. For formal business meetings, dress as you would if you were in person. For less formal gatherings, dress “at-home professional.” Be neat and well put together. Your clothing should be pressed, fit well, and suit your body type. The same goes for virtual social events; dress in what suits you and the occasion. It is disrespectful to wear your binge-watching lounge-wear on camera. It sends the message that others are not worth the effort to dress the part.

3. Learn to listen. Do not interrupt. Do not speak over others. Just as you would in-person, engage your listening skills virtually. Be present, and listen. Wait until it’s your turn to speak, and utilize the “Raise Hand” function. Everyone wants a chance to contribute to the conversation; please be polite and do not interrupt. Interrupters send a signal that their ideas or comments are more important than everyone else’s. Be respectful and wait for your turn to talk. Meanwhile, enjoy the conversation by listening. When it is your turn, or if you are leading the meeting, be inclusive. Use an agenda to manage time, and ensure that everyone can contribute.

4. Be empathetic. Please remember to be empathetic when gathering virtually. As our stress levels climb — 2020 could be synonymous with previously unheard of levels of stress — our patience wanes, and our temper can fly. Be mindful and take an empathetic walk in someone else’s shoes. Use your emotional intelligence and try to understand what others feel. You may need extra patience, but it may help to imagine those who are homeschooling children, taking care of aged parents, and trying to work from home — they might need a little TLC. In business, if possible, be flexible. Socially, take time to reach out to a friend who could use a strong “virtual” shoulder to lean on.

5. Be grateful and kind. We should always be on our best behavior, in-person, or in the virtual world. Treat others how you want to be treated, with respect and kindness. Say, “please,” and “thank you” with sincerity. Research shows that being grateful will improve your mental and physical well-being and help relieve stress, which we could all use. In particular, be kind on social media. Remember that everything you post on social media is immortal. So, despite how easy it may be to leave a sarcastic comment, resist. Take the high ground, and embrace positivity. Remember your core etiquette skills.

Our newest contributor, Heidi Dulebohn is an international cultural consultant and etiquette expert. A coach for emerging and established leaders, she specializes in building advanced level soft skills like emotional intelligence, cultural competence and executive presence. She can be reached at

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

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