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How to Be More Confident on Video Chat

Many people find video calls more uncomfortable than face-to-face interactions.

Sincerely Media / Unsplash
Source: Sincerely Media / Unsplash

The world has changed and your relationship with yourself probably has too — spending time in solitude or wishing you could. You may not be seeing people that you love in person or you may not be dressing the part for the roles you play out in the world. It can all be a bit jarring, especially as you stare at yourself in the tiny camera during your video conferences.

If you’re uncomfortable seeing yourself on video chatting, you’re not alone. In a 2014 survey by the US furniture company Steelcase, 72% of employees reported that they felt distracted by their appearance during video conferencing, and 58% worried about looking tired or washed out. Another study in 2016 conducted by the video-conferencing company Highfive found that 59% of employees feel more self-conscious onscreen than they do in real-time face-to-face conversation.

As a research scientist who studies mirrors and reflections, I understand how the video camera can increase self-consciousness. When we first look at ourselves, we tend to be critical as a default. We have a negativity bias that has us continually scanning for flaws and defects and problems that need fixing. On video calls, we are supposed to keep our attention on what other people are saying. Still, it’s easy to get distracted by a tiny zit, a bit of spinach, or a hair that’s out of place — not to mention the state of our neck or concerns that our new at-home snacking habit might be showing.

Instead of trying to ignore yourself, I suggest using the mirror to take a good look at yourself as a way to prepare for your video call by following these four easy steps.

Four Easy Steps to Confidence on Video Chats

Step 1. Appearance and Grooming

It’s common to check ourselves out in the mirror before we go out in public, especially if we’re on our way to an important meeting for work or a social event in which we have a strong desire to make a great impression. So make sure to do this before the video call. Grooming, hair, make-up, clothing whatever you typically check before you go out, do it before the call. By intentionally taking the time to check how you look in the camera ahead of time, you’ll be less tempted to do it stealth once you get on the call.

Step 2. Posture and Positioning

Check the positioning of your camera and adjust it to eye level. Most people on video tend to look down at their screens, which creates an unflattering angle for your neck. But what’s more: it can create an uneasy feeling in viewers that you are looking down them. Some people look into the camera as though they’re peering into a hole. Hunching over the camera in this manner often evokes the image of a gargoyle and can feel a little spooky to the viewer. Eye-level, not looking down; balanced on your chair with shoulders back, not hunched over the camera, you’ll feel more confident and project it on the call.

Step 3. Breathing and Stress Control

Notice the quality of your breathing. Under normal circumstances, we tend to breathe shallowly in our upper chest mainly. Being on video in which we are being seen and communicating solely with the top part of our body can increase this tendency. Use the camera to notice your breathing and see if you can breathe down into your diaphragm. Deep breathing is one of the quickest ways to reduce anxiety. So before you get on the call, tap your feet on the floor and practice three-part breathing by expanding the diaphragm, ribcage, and collarbones, then gently contracting your collarbones, ribcage, and diaphragm. Continue to be aware of your feet and breathing during the call.

Step 4. Facial Feedback: Mood and Attitude

One reason people avoid looking at themselves in the mirror for more than a cursory glance is that the mirror reveals their emotions. If you are feeling anxious or dreading the call, it may show on your face. Instead of trying to disguise those feelings with a smile, take time before the call to tune in to your actual feelings. Set a timer for 10 minutes and sit with yourself in front of a mirror (or video camera that’s not connected). Notice how you are feeling — let yourself feel any emotions that come up. Then when the timer goes off, get on your video call or go back to your typical day. Research shows that face-to-face contact helps us regulate our emotions. Using the mirror is a great way to support yourself in a moment when there is no one around to lend their compassionate ears and eyes. You can do it for yourself.

Copyright Tara Well 2020.


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