As a species, we’re hardwired for the fast-paced exchange of in-person conversation. When the sound from someone’s mouth doesn’t reach your ears until a half second later, you notice. That’s because we’re ingrained to avoid talking at the same time while minimizing silence between turns. A delay of five-tenths of a second (500 ms)—whether from laggy audio or fumbling for the unmute button—is more than double what we’re used to in-person. These delays mess with the fundamental turn-taking mechanics of our conversations.
On your next video conference, pump the brakes on your speaking speed to avoid unintended interruptions. If it’s a smaller group, try staying unmuted to provide little bits of verbal feedback (“mmhmm,” “okay”) to show you’re actively listening.