Please Unmute

Written by Jennifer Griggs

This morning at our team meeting, one of our members sneezed. Several people said, “Bless you!” Not particularly noteworthy except that we meet by Zoom. 

Since early 2020, some of the most commonly uttered phrases emerged: “You’re muted,” “Please stay on mute until called on to speak,” “Could whoever has a lot of background noise please mute themselves?” 

On-line meeting etiquette generally includes the request that we keep our microphones muted. This makes it easier for people to hear the speaker and suppresses sounds like our partners’ conversations in the same or adjacent room, our pets, and our robot vacuums. 

The fallout, however, is that meetings are silent with the exception of the speaker. There are the reaction buttons and the chat of course, but the verbal feedback we give one another is impossible to detect. The laughter, the reactions, the encouragement, and multiple other forms of feedback  are all suppressed. If you’re sharing information, it’s hard to know if you’re doing a good job for your audience. If you’re being vulnerable, it’s hard to know how well what you’ve shared is being held by others.

A few weeks ago, our team started to experiment with being unmuted. Everyone knows that it’s no problem if you have to stay on mute for the above reasons and any other. And everyone knows that they are not expected to talk. 

As a result of this change,

I experience our meetings as more alive. The connective tissue that holds us together is stronger. I feel more connected than I already did with the amazing people with whom I work. Rather than presentations, we are having conversations.

I’d love to know what you’ve done to feel more connected. Do you use polls, word clouds, the chat, reactions? And what would it make possible to invite everyone to “Please unmute yourselves”?