BBC 6 minute English-Body language online

BBC 6 minute English-Body language online

BBC 6 minute English-Body language online


Transcript of the podcast

Note: This is not a word-for-word transcript

.Neil: Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I’m Neil

Sam: And I’m Sam. When Neil and I record 6 Minute English face-to-face in the BBC Learning English studio which, I am happy to say, we are doing right now, we look at each other as we speak. We smile and use hand gestures and facial expressions in a type of communication called body language

Neil: But during the Covid pandemic, everyday meetings with work colleagues, teachers and friends, and 6 Minute English recording – all moved online

Sam: Video meetings using software like Zoom and Skype became the normal way to communicate with family and friends. And whatever happens with Covid in the future, it seems they’re here to stay

?Neil: In this programme, we’ll be asking: how has body language changed in the world of online video meetings

Sam: We’ll meet the person who wrote the rulebook for clear communication in the digital age – Erica Dhawan, author of a new book, Digital Body Language

Neil: But before that, I have a question for you, Sam, and it’s about Erica Dhawan. She may be a communications expert now, but growing up in Pennsylvania she was a shy and quiet schoolgirl. So how did Erica beat her shyness and become the confident communicator she is today? Did she

?,a) attend public speaking classes

,b) copy the body language of the cool kids at school? or

?c) raised her hand to answer the teacher’s questions, even if she didn’t know the answer

.Sam: I’ll guess that c – she raised her hand to answer the teacher’s questions

.Neil: OK, Sam. We’ll reveal the correct answer later in the programme

Sam: In face-to-face meetings, we immediately see someone’s reaction to what we’ve said through eye contact, where two people look into each other’s eyes as they talk

Neil: Unfortunately, using a web camera to make eye contact is almost impossible in online meetings and this often creates a kind of ‘distancing’ effect

Sam: Erica Dhawan makes several suggestions to help with this. See if you can hear the final suggestion she makes to Michael Rosen as part of BBC Radio 4’s Word of Mouth

Erica Dhawan

And last but not least, slow down. Remember when it was completely normal to have a one-minute pause in a room with one another because we knew when we’re thinking and brainstorming. If we don’t hear someone speak on video, we ask them if they’re on mute. Practise what I call the five-second rule – wait five seconds before speaking to make sure that individuals have time to process the ideas, especially if there may be technology or accessibility issues

?Sam: Did you hear Erica’s last piece of advice, Neil

Neil: Yes, she recommends slowing down, something we do naturally face-to-face when we’re thinking or brainstorming – that’s discussing suggestions with a group of people to come up with new ideas or to solve problems

Sam: Slowing down gives us time to process new information – to understand it by thinking carefully and reflecting on it

Neil: Erica compares online body language to learning a new language – it takes practice, especially when it comes to smiling and laughing, something Michael Rosen finds hard to do in video meetings

.Sam: Listen to him discussing this problem with Erica Dhawan for BBC Radio 4’s, Word of Mouth

Michael Rosen

Do you think it’s killing off people laughing and smiling in the way we do when we’re altogether in the live situation

Erica Dhawan

I would say that it is much less likely that we laugh and smile on camera for a few reasons. Number one, laughing is often done in unison where we can quickly pick up the energy of someone smiling or laughing and feed off of that and laugh ourselves. When it comes to screen delays, the fact that it’s not natural to see our own camera – being distracted by that – we are much less likely to laugh and smile. One of the ways we can overcome this is by creating intentional moments in our meetings for the water cooler effect

.Sam: Erica points out that laughing often happens in unison – together and at the same time

.Neil: Yes, if someone starts laughing it makes me laugh too

Sam: She also thinks it’s important to make time for employees to chat informally about things unrelated to work – their weekend plans or last night’s TV show

Neil: And she uses the expression, the water cooler effect which comes from the United States where office workers sometimes meet at the water fountain to chat

Sam: So, the water cooler effect refers to informal conversations that people have in their office or workplace, maybe in the lift, the office kitchen or, if there is one, by an actual water cooler

Neil: Erica Dhawan seems very comfortable communicating online, but she’s had lots of time to practice since her schooldays

Sam: Ah yes, Neil, in your quiz question you asked how Erica conquered her shyness at school. I guessed that she raised her hand to answer the teacher’s questions

Neil: It was a good guess, Sam, but the correct answer is b – she copied the body language of her cool teenage classmates, so probably lots of rolled eyes and slouching

Sam: OK, let’s recap the vocabulary from this programme about online body language – non-verbal ways of communicating using the body

.Neil: Eye contact is when two people look at each other’s eyes at the same time

.Sam: Brainstorming involves a group discussion to generate new ideas or solutions

.Neil: When we process information, we think about it carefully in order to understand it

.Sam: In unison means happening together and at the same time

Neil: And finally, the water cooler effect is an American expression to describe informal conversations between people at work

!Sam: Neil is looking at his watch, which is body language that tells me our six minutes are up

!Neil: Goodbye for now

!Sam: Goodbye

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