The Missing Smile

Smiles say so much. Often, words are not necessary. I see almost no smiles anymore.

“Over my decades of teaching, I’ve learned to read a room pretty well: the harmonized posture, the breaths, the laughter, the eye gaze. My classes are successful when everyone is so excited that they want to speak over each other out of sheer exuberance. When people sit up straight and say, “Wait! Do you mean …?” because they have a brand-new way to understand the world — that’s the superpower of anthropology. When students huddling around a text point to it, their gazes converging, and create a document they’re proud of. When people laugh simultaneously. When the affect and the cognition and the interaction work together.”

This is not what my Zoom classrooms are like.

There is constant need to repair, to apologize. People are constantly talking at the same time and interrupting someone else’s signal. I am constantly switching views from one screen to another, to scan the faces (at least those who haven’t chosen to post a blank screen, permitting rest, multitasking or even absence). I am watching the eyes, listening for completion, listening for that intake of breath that indicates readiness to talk. I am continually repressing my lifelong, trained habit of uttering simultaneous encouragement through “continuers,” those back-channel cues that encourage the speaker to go on. Mmm-hmm, yeah, I know. None of that works; the platform is made for a single speaker at a time. It’s the folk model of how conversation works, but not what we actually find in practice.

Charles Darwin
Smiling eyes?
Smiling eyes?
Communications in the past
Is the past coming back?

“COVID-19 has hit us all hard and caught us off guard — bringing us into what we now call the “new normal”. With the increased mobility restrictions and their impact on businesses worldwide, rules of communications have changed overnight. While life has been upended by the pandemic, we all have had to figure out solutions to cope with the dynamic situation. The virtual world has become our ‘new world’. This stands true for communications as well, be it internal and external. As new platforms are increasingly adopted, brands have been compelled to rethink their communication strategies, both internal and external, so as to continue reaching out to their target audiences including employees, investors, and consumers, etc., effectively.”

“It is acknowledged and irrefutable that good, solid organisational communication eliminates barriers and helps to resolve problems timeously. It improves the culture and helps to build stronger workplace relationships which lead to increased performance and productivity. In fact, what you say, how you say it and when you say it is your culture.”

“Although information overload and remote collaboration have been on the rise for some time, no-one could have predicted how this would accelerate in recent months. It is now even more important to communicate effectively, especially on a digital medium. So, how do we adjust the old rules to thrive in the new normal?”

“Post-crisis internal communications are going to take on a whole new layer of importance as countries and the businesses continue their move out of the hard lockdowns of the past weeks and months. If before it was relegated to mere internal newsletters and in-office posters, post lockdown internal communications will have a much bigger part to play. Ironically, it took a global pandemic to drive home just how much we depend on internal communications to keep things moving smoothly. Here are things you need to watch out for.”

“2020 has been a year of learning new things and adapting to new changes. One of the new changes is the ‘New normal’ with ‘Physical or Social Distancing’, with the sudden dawn of the Covid-19 virus. Today, we must adapt to wearing a mask, maintaining distances, not greeting persons as we use to, washing hands among other new practices. This has restricted the way we communicate with others and has both positive and negative impact on our interpersonal relationships. Today’s Blog Sundays topic, we examine thirteen (13) areas or practices within Interpersonal Communications, where the New Normal has been highly impacted.”



Executive, manager, engineer, entrepreneur. Harvard doctorate in decision analysis. Consultant/executive coach to banks, distributors, retailers, mfrs, startups

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Gerry Allan

Executive, manager, engineer, entrepreneur. Harvard doctorate in decision analysis. Consultant/executive coach to banks, distributors, retailers, mfrs, startups