Are you violating video-call etiquette? - Hindustan Times
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Are you violating video-call etiquette?

Dipanjan Sinha, Hindustan Times | By
Apr 22, 2020 08:02 AM IST

We’ve never video-called more. Office meetings, catching up with friends, parties, consulting your doctors or checking in on loved ones. But there is a right way and a wrong way to do this.

We’ve never video-called more. Office meetings, catching up with friends, parties, consulting your doctors or checking in on loved ones.

Sanya Sabharwal and her mother (middle square, top row) chat with family every day, play games. ‘When we’re not talking, we stay on mute, so whoever is talking can be heard clearly,’ she says.
Sanya Sabharwal and her mother (middle square, top row) chat with family every day, play games. ‘When we’re not talking, we stay on mute, so whoever is talking can be heard clearly,’ she says.

“In the absence of the healing hug, handshake or arm around the shoulder, it’s important to explore other means of connectedness, and that’s where video-calling comes in,” says Arvinder Singh, head of the centre for wellbeing at Ashoka University.

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But there is a right way and a wrong way to do this. Don’t pop up without warning; don’t dawdle and overstay your welcome; don’t dial in too often.

Always first check first if the person is ready for a video call. Also periodically gauge whether the other person or people are up to talking for longer, or whether it is time to end the call. One way to check if you’re becoming over-dependent on video calls, says Singh, is to ask yourself if it’s eating into non-gadget activities like exercising or reading.

Finally, if you’re not in the mood for a video call, corporate trainer Suneeta Sodhi Kanga says a polite way to escape is to offer to do a voice call instead, and say that your bandwidth doesn’t support so much video.

LIGHT IT UP

If you are making a lot of video calls, first things first, make sure the lighting is right. “The point of a video call is to see expressions, gestures. Bad lighting defeats that purpose,” Kanga says.

It’s also poor form, she adds, to not prepare yourself for a video call. “You may now be used to working wherever you like, wearing whatever you like, but if you’re getting on a call with colleagues or even friends, make an effort,” says banker Shalmoli Saha. Don’t wear something you wouldn’t wear to meet people in real life, says Kanga.

Amid the chaos of everyone being home — kids, pets, parents — it’s also considered polite to mute yourself if you’re not actually speaking. That way no one has to hear the cooker go off, or your parent or spouse scolding a sibling or child.

Market researcher Sanya Sabharwal, 28, says she mutes herself even when she’s on Zoom with the family, playing games or chatting across cities.

PICK A THEME

If you’re chatting often — Sabharwal’s family meets at 9 pm daily — it’s a good idea to work in a theme or activity.

“Our friends’ group chats were getting a little too gloomy, with prolonged discussions on coronavirus data. So we organised a cultural programme for Bengali New Year. Each friend had to perform something. And it felt almost like we were together, humming and cheering as we do in one of the drawing rooms we crowd so often,” Saha says.

One problem she hasn’t found a workaround to: Telling white lies when talking to her parents. “It’s great to be able to see them, but so hard to bluff on video about a skipped meal,” she says.

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