CHAPTER TWO Getting to Know You Online Imagine being introduced to someone . . . you shake their hand and smile and read their body language. These things are not just a matter of etiquette. They’re invaluable cues that help us decide whether the person we’re encountering seems trustworthy and capable (or not). We feel lost without them. How then does all this work when our interactions go, and stay, online? Good to (Virtually) Meet You! Everyone understands the impact of first impressions. The split-second judgments we make are surprisingly hard to change, though our conclusions are not without bias.1 For instance, we consider those who look like us as more trustworthy, regardless of their other characteristics.2 Even babies as young as seven months old seem to show preferences for certain facial fea- tures and expressions over others with just a few milliseconds of exposure.3 Video preserves this visual element, but is it possible to make these same judgments? Although we’ve made inroads into understanding the science behind the importance of being physically together, we may never fully uncover why this is infinitely more satisfying. We all yearn for a face-to-face introduction—meeting new people on the phone, video, email, and so on simply doesn’t feel the same. The sense of ease we get after an in-person “launch party” has made this the long-held gold standard for virtual teams. Companies have gone to great lengths to fly people to a mutual location just to have that first meeting (or one soon after). And some research has supported this trend by documenting delays in the development of trust in virtual teams without such in-person gatherings, though trust does build eventually.4 Virtual introductions are not a deal- breaker, but they can trigger a slower start.
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