Psychology Trivia: How to Survive Video Meetings


The trick to have a good conversation

Do you know the secret to having a good conversation on the first date? At least in Japan, I believe many people know it: You must reserve seats facing the same direction! Do you know why that is? The psychological effects that appear by sitting face-to-face are strain, conflict, and seriousness, while we instinctively have the sense of sympathy, intimacy, and affection when facing the same direction. I used to use this psychological theory in my younger days, though I don’t think I gained a lot of benefits. Now, the theory is confusing me. How should we position ourselves in video meetings?

Silence is less tolerated in video meetings

How many video meetings did you have last week? I believe they become more and more common than in-person-onsite ones. To be honest, I don’t like video meetings very much. You may imagine that’s because it’s more difficult to read participants’ emotions. It’s true but just one of the minor reasons for me. I have been thinking about why that is, and found it’s something more structural or fundamental.

In video meetings, I always feel whipped up to keep on talking and sometimes suffocated with an awkward silence because I feel like the purpose of a meeting is limited or purified more severely. I’m not the only one who thinks that way. For example, many people have been trying online parties in Japan for the last few years, but search words frequently collocated with “online party” are “awkward,” “how to decline,” “hell,” etc.

Sidetracks and silence may be more important than agenda items

In other words, there is less allowance for sidetracks and silence in video meetings. Sidetracks and silence are not that good even in in-person onsite meetings, but I think we can develop a tacit understanding, a trust, etc. by experiencing such allowance together. For wooden furniture making, allowance is also important and necessary because wood is an unstable material. The problem is the fact that the less allowance is the better furniture looks in brand new condition. Our product development team is always struggling to find an optimum solution.

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Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.