Listening for Implicit Cues in the Online Space

Become better empathetic communicators online by learning the art of microexpressions, using ensemble perception and deciphering an individual’s pattern. Digital empathy is human behavior using their capacity to share and understand the thoughts and feelings of others. The core principles of digital empathy is compassion, cognition, and emotion. Many people work from home and school is done from home on the computer and video chat has taken over the face to face world. Zoom and similar platforms are now the new normal. Practicing digital empathy will not only be effective in your online meeting but even as a human being. When change happens we adapt.

In online meetings active listening must still take place. Active listening is paying attention to words and intonation. At face to face networking events you may have heard the term “read the room. ” In that atmosphere you may have had to take in the smells, walk around and get a feel for the energy of the room, reading body language and take in the sounds. In the online meeting space you must look for implicit cues such as facial expressions, body language, different tones, posture, and eye contact.


Three skills are helpful for becoming a better empathetic communicator: learning the art of microexpressions, using ensemble perception, and deciphering each person’s pattern.

Learning the art of microexpressions comes from director of Humintell, David Matsumo. He did an NPR interview detailing the morphology of microexpressions as the same as any facial expressions. If someone shows an emotion of disgust they may wrinkle their nose or lift their upper lip. If someone shows an emotion of anger or surprise they may raise their brows or upper eyelid or even do a jaw drop. He says the key difference is in how long it lasts.

When using the ensemble perception you gaze over the meeting in speaker’s view. Ensemble perception is one’s ability to visually process a group of objects from a brief glance. Apply this to reading emotions on the screen. Do not just focus on one face at time, observe the group as a whole.

Lastly, in order to understand digital empathy you must be able to decipher each person’s pattern to determine how to read their emotions. Written text conveys emotions with multiple letters or capital letters and punctuation. Emails or text messages convey emotions using emojis. When using video chat you must be become attuned the individuals normal pattern. Know their pattern of angry responses or annoyed responses. These skills can help one become a better empathetic communicators online. Digital empathy is sharing and understanding the thoughts of others in the online space.

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