Talking on Mute

This post was written by Hannah Morris, Director of Assessment & Advancement at The Latimer Group.

No, this is not about all the times when we try to contribute to conversations, only to realize that we have disabled our own audio. It is not about tallying the number of times that “You’re on mute.” gets said in a meeting, or laughing at ourselves when we try to tell someone they’re on mute while we are, in fact, on mute.

This is about how we continue communicating while on mute, both intentionally and inadvertently.

In a recent workshop, while discussing the changes we have experienced in adapting to virtual communication, one participant remarked how often she found herself waving ‘goodbye’ at the end of meetings now. She laughed and added that she never would have waved while leaving the conference room after an in-person meeting, yet now it has become commonplace. Others shared that they are giving more thumbs-up than ever before.

The increased use of videoconferencing is causing adaptation.

People are putting more emphasis on nodding to signal agreement and raising hands to indicate a question, whereas in person they would not have felt the need. This can make meetings more efficient by enabling us to see alignment more quickly and reduce instances of people talking over one another.

We are leveraging more nonverbal cues to contribute to conversations visually as one element of our virtual evolution.

But those are just the intentional signals we are sending. How about the inadvertent ones?

These are the ones that we send without realizing it, but that still get interpreted with full meaning by our audience. For example, I got called out the other day by someone in a group coaching session who noticed my facial reaction to a particularly overwhelming slide in someone’s presentation deck. Luckily, this individual found humor and commonality in the widening of my eyes, but what might others have read? I have also been called out for leaning back in a meeting and appearing contrary or detached when, in reality, that was not at all my intention. It added a layer of confusion to the conversation and I appreciated the opportunity to clarify my sentiments verbally.

What else is our audience noticing and interpreting in the signals we are sending both silently and inadvertently? Is it the furrowed brow that gets read as skepticism? Or the fidgeting that gets interpreted as impatience? Or the multitasking that could be seen as disinterest, detachment, or at the very worst, disdain?

When we are on video, let’s remember that we are on video… all the time.

Let’s use that awareness to be more intentional in how we contribute to conversations verbally and nonverbally. And let’s endeavor to use our muted communication to move the conversation forward and facilitate connection and understanding.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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2 responses to “Talking on Mute”

  1. Derick Nicholas says:


  2. Анастасия says:

    Today s tip for a successful synchronous session is tip #9 Mute students when they aren’t talking.

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Hannah Morris

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.