Video Calls Can Be From Too Far Away – but it’s not what you think

The social psychology of conversation is fascinating. Conversations are the basis of productivity, relationships and well-being. Body language plays a huge role. The basis for non-verbal communication is proxemics, both online and in real life.

Proxemics is just a fancy word for the study of how far people are apart. In public spaces, we keep more distance whilst in more familiar contexts, we get closer to each other. Psychologists understand that proximity lies at the foundation of non-verbal communication. For instance, distance determines how much you have to amplify non-verbal cues. When on stage for a large crowd, you will exaggerate your movements much more than during pillow talk (hopefully, anyway). We are so used to adapting that we don’t notice when we do it.

Sales people know how important distance is. They usually get much closer than other business people. Psychologists have confirmed that this leads to more effective negations. That’s one of the reasons why negotiations over the phone are harder. Over the phone, you simply don’t have the same tool set of body language to be persuasive.

In video calls, this gets really complicated. You have more non-verbal cues, but are there any proxemics? It turns out that, yes, the appearance of distance can be managed by how far you put your camera.

So here are some tips about proxemics in video calls:

  • You control distance by deciding how much you show. Your face only would be very close. Your entire upper body would be very far.
  • Be far enough away so that you can gesticulate. At the same time, don’t let your face be so small that others won’t be able to read your facial expressions.
  • If it’s a call with a larger group, then make sure how close you are does not stand out too much. You don’t want to be very small when everyone’s really big on the screen and vice versa.

Proxemics also explains why we communicate more effectively in smaller group sizes. By being closer, we can be more aware of non-verbal cues and pay attention to more people at once. At Knit – The Group Video Call, we encourage smaller group sizes by making splitting up easy for more effective communication. If you are curious about group sizes of conversations, check out our article “Something to Talk About”.