There’s no denying that life has changed dramatically since the onset of the pandemic. The aspect that has suffered the most is communication. Learning new aspects of interaction has proven to be complex for everyone, regardless of their age and location.
As is the case with all changes in life, people adapt over time. However, the question remains, what will come to pass after the most dangerous aspects of the pandemic have moved on?
The Missing Aspect: Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal communication makes a large part of how we normally communicate — the aspect we all came to understand once it was taken from us.
For one thing, we’re still struggling to substitute the usual gestures and greetings that we used to take for granted. Eye contact, body language and facial expressions are, perhaps, the three most notable aspects that have suffered during the pandemic.
Not everything is bleak, though. Even if the nonverbal part of communication is largely missing, we are learning to adapt our everyday language to make up for it. Perhaps we are set to face new verbal communication norms once the danger has passed.
The chance is predicted to affect younger generations the most, according to Tricia Jones, a professor at the Klein College of Media and Communication specializing in nonverbal communication, who states that we are “so oriented toward our devices, especially young people, that we are finding it harder to want to engage the other person rather than the device. Even when we’re in literally the same space.”
But the excessive use of devices seems to be the regular state of affairs, especially for younger generations. The change, thus, doesn’t seem too drastic for everyone, meaning that the lack of empathy that limited communication brings about is real.
Jones argues that this is hindering connection between people and the solution lies in “getting people back together again.”
“We need to find creative ways to have people in conversation, but in safe, socially-distanced spaces,” she says.
Business Communication: Challenges
When it comes to business communication, the main change is that most people are working from home. While business correspondence normally relies, at least in part, on instant messaging and using a flexible email client, notably Gmail or a similar alternative, meetings and brainstorming activities are usually done in person.
The pandemic has affected this aspect of business communication, giving a boost to online meeting tools and leaving many people dazed and confused.
After all this time, things are looking up; even those that originally had difficulties adapting are now more versed in the subtleties of online meetings.
What will happen after the pandemic and how the present trends are going to affect this aspect of communication remains to be seen. What we know, however, is that many people are hoping to be able to keep working online, at least occasionally, so some of these trends may be here to stay.
While the rapid development of digital technologies has given rise to better education opportunities for many people around the globe, the pandemic has forced even those who don’t need it to turn to online studying.
The biggest hurdle everywhere seems to be elementary, middle and high schools. Many issues have been reported both by pupils and parents. It is important to keep in mind that not every parent is tech-savvy, and that not everyone has stable internet access.
The other huge problem is lack of interaction between children, which, everyone agrees, is crucial at that age.
While there’s nothing much that to be done at the moment, psychologists and parents worry how this drastic change is going to affect the way the children interact after the pandemic. It’s difficult to predict the outcomes.
However, things seem clear that we may move into an era of mobile learning, rather than always deferring to classrooms, teachers and face-to-face interactions.
In the U.S alone, a quarter of the population does not have broadband Internet service at home, and almost one-fifth does not own a smartphone, according to Pew Research Center.
Further out, the differences in skill are glaringly obvious. People who normally rarely use communication apps have been forced to learn a good deal of things. Merely downloading and installing a number of tools has proven to be a challenge — let alone learning how to use them efficiently.
This goes on to prove that even people who have access to the internet but are not tech-savvy are having a more difficult time than people relying on digital technology for communication. This can lead to the need to instill various ways of engagement to level the playing field.
Adopting New Ways of Communication
Now, everyone is wondering what will happen after the pandemic. Will all of us keep relying on online communication, or are we going back to the way things were before?
As mentioned above, younger generations lack interpersonal skills by default simply because they were born in the age of mobile devices. Psychologists have, actually, been warning against this practice for a while. The lack of social interactions face-to-face is a huge issue, as it were, even without the pandemic.
What about other generations? What about business correspondence?
These questions loom large, and the answers are likely to have drastic consequences on the way people communicate. Nowhere does digital inequality seem to be more impactful than in this matter, but is there a way to bridge the gap?
Communication may be linked to a more profound social issue that used to be below the radar in some regions before the pandemic, but is now affecting people everywhere.
What Will Come Next?
Due to the multi-layered issues — a small number of which has been presented here — of this complex topic, it is almost impossible to predict how communication will change after the pandemic.
What is certain is that there will be many switching to remote work permanently, meaning that communication trends will have to adjust accordingly, whether we like it or not.
Will we turn into robots incapable of nonverbal communication? Or, will we embrace the socialization that we claim to be missing so much?
Only the future will tell.