This is not new information: communication is the cornerstone of human interaction. It is the main way in which we have learned to understand each other. The effectiveness of communication relies not only on the words spoken but also on the subtleties that come with them.
With that, what does it mean to be synchronous in communication? In theory, when we hear both what is said and what is not said by someone (both verbal and non-verbal elements) and respond spontaneously to that person’s need at that moment, that is being in synchrony (Erdös and Ramseyer, 2021).
Basically, it refers to the harmonious alignment of verbal and non-verbal cues, creating a seamless and meaningful exchange. In many contexts, such as coaching, synchronicity in communication plays a pivotal role in fostering trust, engagement, and social consciousness (Erdös and Ramseyer, 2021), all of which is important for effective communication and positive outcomes in coaching.
The Power of Synchronicity in Communication
Effective communication goes beyond merely exchanging words; it involves perceiving, understanding and working with spontaneous verbal and non-verbal signals. In fact, research has found that communication is 55% non-verbal, 38% vocal, and 7% words only. When individuals are in sync with each other, there is a heightened ability to comprehend not only what is said but also what is left unsaid. This synchronicity leads to more trustful and socially conscious interactions, fostering deeper understanding and connections that enable effective exchanges.
In coaching, the importance of synchronicity cannot be overstated. When coaches are attuned to their clients’ verbal and non-verbal cues, they are able to respond in ways that address not just client needs but also needs that involve contextual aspects of the coaching conversation.
Non-verbal synchronyis a significant component of interpersonal synchrony, encompassing the spontaneous responsiveness of whole-body language, facial expressions, and gestures between individuals. It is not to do with any conscious coordination of body language. When we sync in with both what is said and not said, responding spontaneously to both verbal and non-verbal cues, that’s when we engage in synchrony.
This is particularly relevant in coaching, where the unspoken signals often convey as much, if not more, than the spoken words. When it comes to coaching, non-verbal synchrony manifests in the spontaneous and timed alignment of body movements between the coach and the client. This is a clear indicator that the coach is really present, responding to what is truly needed for the client to move on, not just the coach’s own ideas of what is needed. What is truly needed is a challenge in any in-person communication. Yet, it is through synching in with what is really going on that clients will feel safe in the coaching relationship, creating a safe space for consistent engagement, deep exploration and courageous self-discovery (Erdös and Ramseyer, 2021).
Challenges in Virtual Environments
In our modern business landscape, being in synchronicity is even more challenging. As a result of the global pandemic, where virtual communication and remote collaboration have become increasingly prevalent, the challenge of achieving synchronicity is heightened. In virtual communication, individuals may find it more difficult to be in sync with the full spectrum of cues, especially non-verbal cues.
The absence of physical proximity in virtual interactions limits the scope of non-verbal communication, making it harder to perceive cues – subtle or other. Additionally, technological barriers, such as video delays or audio glitches, can disrupt the natural flow of communication, hindering the spontaneity required for synchronicity.
Overcoming Virtual Challenges in Synchronicity
While virtual environments present challenges, there are strategies to enhance synchronicity in remote communication, including that in coaching. Being aware of the potentials as well as limitations of video conferencing and virtual coaching platforms can help bridge the gap. Not just coaches, but all virtual communicators should be mindful of the limitations imposed by the virtual medium and make intentional efforts to compensate for the lack of physical presence.
It’s all about learning new communication rules for a digital age. This can include addressing the issue of ‘zoom fatigue’ and learning about the dynamics of amplification through technology in virtual spaces (Erdös, 2024, in print) to better understand how to keep others engaged in virtual spaces. With digital interactions, non-verbal communication may need some deliberate effort to be adapted to the screen.
Furthermore, fostering active engagement and encouraging more conscious communication can mitigate the challenges associated with virtual interactions. Regular check-ins, transparency about expectations, and the cultivation of a supportive virtual atmosphere can contribute to building synchronicity even in the absence of physical proximity.
Manage Synchronicity in Communication Today
All in all, synchronicity in communication is a dynamic and nuanced interplay of verbal and non-verbal cues that is very important to connecting and engaging with people, especially in coaching. The ability to respond spontaneously to both spoken and unspoken signals creates a rich and meaningful exchange that fosters a deeper and more meaningful connection, which is important for effective outcomes.
Here at Integrative Presence, one aspect of our leadership and coaching programfocuses on your presence and synchronicity: how you show up, and how you show up with others. We look at four spheres that influence your presence in any given situation, and this serves as the basis for our program. We have helped leaders and coaches around the world cultivate a trusted and meaningful presence, bringing a positive impact to their teams through synchronicity.
Want to learn more about creating a trustful and trusted leadership bond and presence? Reach out today!
- Erdös, T. (2024). The Handbook of Digital Coaching. Coaching the Team in Digital Workplaces: Eds.(Passmore, J. et al.). Routledge. (in print)
- Erdös, T., & Ramseyer, F. T. (2021). Change Process in Coaching: Interplay of Nonverbal Synchrony, Working Alliance, Self-Regulation, and Goal Attainment, Frontiers in Psychology, 12:580351. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.580351