From TJ Magazine: Cook Looks

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Written by Jo Cook on 5 September 2019 in Features

With so much of our professional life taking place online rather than face-to-face, it’s time to pay attention to our digital body language, says Jo Cook.

Reading time: 2m 30s.

Part of what I love about social media and the connections, or personal learning network, that I have is how much they make me think.

Sukh Pabial posted this on Twitter: “In the L&D space, I notice a number of consultants who don’t share personal stuff. You just get no sense of who they are as a person or what their value set is. They say the right things for professional purposes, but rarely do you see them back it up in their interactions.”

This generated a lot of discussion that went off in all sorts of directions. It got me thinking about my writing confidence over the years. The first post on my professional blog was in 2012, and it’s not that great! Even though I studied journalism when I was 19, my writing wasn’t strong and I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my own voice.

Who would want to listen to me? What did I have to say?

A few years ago I went back through my blog and spent time sorting out the categories, tags, images, links, formatting and all sorts. I realised how much I’d learned in four years or so, about how to write for the internet audience, but also confidence in what I was saying and my own voice.

People are no longer just working face-to-face and we can no longer rely upon tone of verbal delivery, reading people’s  physical body language and the clues of being in person. 

Some of my posts are challenging, because there are a lot of things that need to be explained and done better, but there are also posts that are just honest and vulnerable.

One of my most commented-upon columns for TJ was about receiving some painful feedback and my response to it (refresh your memory here). A couple of people contacted me to see if I was OK, and on Twitter people reshared, saying that we needed more openness and honesty.

I was amazed at the response, especially as, quite frankly, I was a little nervous writing that column for an international magazine and website! Would people think less of me? Would they think me less of a professional? Maybe. But what people told me was that they thought the vulnerability was refreshing and useful.

So this brings me to you. To reference Sukh’s question, are you doing more than just sharing the professional minimum you need, so that people get to see more of your personality? How are you going to gain the confidence to share your vulnerability and be, in a word, authentic, rather than using social media or internal communications as a mask?

I call this digital body language, as it’s about how we come across in this digital age. People are no longer just working face-to-face and we can no longer rely upon tone of verbal delivery, reading people’s  physical body language and the clues of being in person.

Today we communicate with others in webinar chat panels, on LinkedIn groups, in Twitter chats, email and so much more. How we come across in the digital age needs to show professionalism, but also our authentic selves.


About the author

Jo Cook is deputy editor of TJ and responsible for the #TJtalks webinars. Contact her at jo.cook@



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