MACo’s Book Club Talks Through “Digital Body Language” at #MACoCon

MACo’s Book Club – an informal gathering at each summer and winter conference – spotlighted “Digital Body Language” for a lively conversation during the Summer Conference.

In recent years, MACo’s summer and winter conferences have featured a different flavor of “breakout” sessions on the program – a chance for attendees to discuss a book of interest, selected by a hands-on group of regular attendees. The books are typically selected for their relevance to public sector work, some focusing on specific matters in governance and service, others more broadly on self-improvement.

This summer, around 30 attendees took a deep dive into Erica Dhawan’s “Digital Body Language” – focusing on the rapid advance of modern communications technologies in the workplace — think email, text messages, DMs, “Zoom” rooms, and so on.

From Goodreads:

The definitive guide to communicating and connecting in a hybrid world.

Email replies that show up a week later. Video chats full of “oops sorry no you go” and “can you hear me?!” Ambiguous text-messages. Weird punctuation you can’t make heads or tails of. Is it any wonder communication takes us so much time and effort to figure out? How did we lose our innate capacity to understand each other?

Humans rely on body language to connect and build trust, but with most of our communication happening from behind a screen, traditional body language signals are no longer visible — or are they? In Digital Body Language, Erica Dhawan, a go-to thought leader on collaboration and a passionate communication junkie, combines cutting edge research with engaging storytelling to decode the new signals and cues that have replaced traditional body language across genders, generations, and culture. In real life, we lean in, uncross our arms, smile, nod and make eye contact to show we listen and care. Online, reading carefully is the new listening. Writing clearly is the new empathy. And a phone or video call is worth a thousand emails.

Digital Body Language will turn your daily misunderstandings into a set of collectively understood laws that foster connection, no matter the distance. Dhawan investigates a wide array of exchanges—from large conferences and video meetings to daily emails, texts, IMs, and conference calls—and offers insights and solutions to build trust and clarity to anyone in our ever changing world.

The session was sponsored by JP Morgan, whose support enabled MACo to purchase advance copies of the book for a number of attendees who indicated their interest in advance. As always, some attendees joined the discussion without previously reading the book, but still gained insight from the conversation — an always welcome part of these offerings.

Interested in being part of the MACo “good government” Book Club? We’d love to have your input on the next selection, and we’d welcome your participation in December’s winter conference breakout session. Contact Michael Sanderson, MACo’s Executive Director (and committed Book Club contributor), to be added to our contact list.


Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties