You’ve not been living under a rock since the pandemic hit in 2020, so you know that virtual communication has become critical to your career or business success.

Whether you work in a big corporation or a mid-sized company; whether you’re an entrepreneur or a small business owner, you share the same reality with all productive folks: You’ve needed to communicate virtually with colleagues, clients, partners, and diverse stakeholders since the first lockdown.

Moreover, in recent times, virtual communication has spurred increased collaborations, continuous assessments (of what works and what doesn’t) and cross-cultural interactions. However, note that effective virtual communication is difficult to pull off, especially when interacting with people from different cultures.

The challenges with virtual communication are well-known. First, your technical setup should withstand meetings and online events – so no audio, video or internet glitches. Second, your body language cues must not cause people to disengage. Finally, your verbal communication must be clear and purposeful and not trigger ‘Zoom fatigue’. It’s no wonder that we’ve all failed at some point in our virtual communication in the last 18 months.

As a communications trainer, coach, keynote speaker, and more recently, bestselling author, networking with experts in my field is vital to amplifying my knowledge and increasing my credibility. And I’ve found virtual communication invaluable to forming collaborations.

But there’s one thing that you must ensure in your virtual communication for it to achieve whatever goals you hold dear:

You must trigger trust and develop psychological safety to thrive.

The importance of psychological safety

Without exuding warmth and generating trust, it would be impossible for people to feel ‘safe’ and become receptive to your message/service/partnership. You will, in turn, lose the other party’s valuable contributions that could enrich the exchange and lead to mutually beneficial outcomes.

That psychological state where you feel ‘safe’, where you become receptive to another party’s ideas, and can freely contribute your ideas in complete confidence –  without negative outcomes or backlash, is what psychological safety entails.

Recently, I connected with Junior Clark on LinkedIn, the manager of product development and strategy at LeaderFactor. He directed me to some brilliant work by Timothy R. Clark, the founder and CEO of LeaderFactor, a global consulting, coaching, and training organisation. Dr Clark is an international authority in psychological safety and innovation, large-scale change and transformation, and senior leadership development. In his book The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation, Dr Clark reveals the four stages that are critical when seeking to generate trust and create an environment for teams to thrive: inclusion safety, learner safety, contributor safety, and challenger safety. I recommend learning more about the four stages of psychological safety here.

Exciting benefits of psychological safety in your company include increased innovation, improved performance, higher employee retention, and better health and security.

Take psychological safety seriously if you’re serious about long-lasting results in your organisation.

Psychological safety in action: My first virtual assessment

A few weeks ago, it became clear to me, during a virtual assessment session conducted by a professional I had never met, that excellent virtual communication was crucial for generating trust and creating psychological safety.

One of the reasons LinkedIn is my favourite social media platform is that I meet amazing people who are masters of their craft. I also enjoy learning from them and sharing my knowledge/work on business communication. I’ve been connected to Jamie Mason Cohen on LinkedIn for over a year. Jamie is a handwriting expert and an international keynote speaker. I’m a fan of his work on handwriting analysis, which is a field I know very little about.

So, when Jamie suggested we teamed up to record an episode where he’d analyse my handwriting, and I’d offer some advice on his communication style, I was intrigued and agreed. Soon afterwards, Jamie sent me a sample sheet on which I had to copy some funny sentences. After I sent him my handwriting sample, he set to work.

In our Zoom discussion, a few days later, when he revealed what he’d discovered about some aspects of my personality—solely based on my handwriting—I was impressed. Jamie was very accurate. He even went further to hint at a potential medical concern based on my handwriting sample’s ‘middle zone’. What was incredible about the experience was that we’d never met in person, nor had we spoken before the Zoom meeting. The virtual assessment was our first interaction online. Jamie’s based in Canada, and I’m in Nigeria.

It was an eye-opening session for both of us. Due to confidentiality reasons, we didn’t make the entire Zoom recording public. However, Jamie provided two short clips of our session, which I’d share in this post.

In this video, Jamie nailed the integrity part of my personality – based on what he saw in the way I wrote the letter ‘O’. Below is the handwriting sample I provided.

Lucille Ossai’s handwriting sample

After discussing his revelations, Jamie asked me how someone could create psychological safety in communication, especially during assessments. He requested practical tips to heighten his communication style and make people more comfortable and receptive to his message/recommendations.

His question was relevant for two reasons:

i) An assessment can be a sensitive activity that can make the person being assessed uncomfortable, defensive, or resentful if the exercise isn’t handled with tact.

ii) An assessment could be tricky if you (the assessor) were meeting the other person virtually for the first time (which was the case with Jamie and me). It becomes more challenging if the other person comes from a different culture that you’re unfamiliar with.

In our Zoom discussion, I shared practical communication tips to create psychological safety during his assessments.

The key attributes Jamie displayed, which led me to trust his expertise and to feel comfortable enough to reveal other personal details (which were excluded from the video), are summarised below:

a) His nonverbal cues were reassuring: varying eye contact where appropriate, a reassuring tone, and a relaxed posture.

b) His verbal reinforcements before the session, during the session, and afterwards put me at ease. He communicated his sensitivity and assured me that only the content I approved would be released.

Watch the second clip below for the quick tips and note why I was receptive to and appreciative of Jamie’s message. I also suggested what he should realise for his future sessions to put the person being assessed at ease and make him/her receptive to receiving the information being shared.


The pandemic would probably go down in history as the quickest force for altering virtual communication since 2019. The professional landscape has evolved, with flexible/hybrid/ remote work arrangements becoming the new reality. People now routinely assess their priorities to decide what they would/would not tolerate in their professional relationships.

Yet, the human needs for trust, cooperation, collaboration, and respect will remain unchanged. Therefore, psychological safety will remain a deciding force in virtual communication and interpersonal relationships.

So whether you’re conducting one-on-one assessments online, delivering coaching /training programmes virtually, collaborating with team members across different regions, or managing remote partnerships, intentionally nurturing psychological safety will serve you well.

With the tips given in this article and the nuggets gleaned from the videos, you can coax trust, create psychological safety with your virtual communication, and inspire people to massive positive actions.

Did you know?

A few months ago, my book Influence and Thrive became a bestseller on Amazon Australia and Canada for the paperback and Kindle versions, respectively!

I’m beyond excited as I’m now a ‘bestselling author’. How rewarding is that?

View the screenshots below of Amazon Australia’s paperback format, where the book was ranked #12 in the ‘Workplace Communication’ and ‘Business Writing (Books)’ categories.

Amazon Australia bestseller
Amazon Australia bestsellers rank

And below are the screenshots of the Amazon Canada Kindle bestseller list and categories where the book was ranked #28 and #23 in the ‘Business Communications (Kindle Store)’ category.

Amazon Canada bestseller
Amazon Canada bestsellers rank

Thank you to everyone who’s bought any version of my debut business book. I’m also extending my special gratitude to all who bought Influence and Thrive in Australia and Canada and made it a bestseller seven months after it was published!

So in appreciation of your support of my book, I’ve uploaded Chapter 4 of Influence and Thrive on my book website and made it free to download. Just visit here and click on the download button. You don’t even need to provide your email address. If you enjoy the chapter and want to buy the Kindle/ebook, paperback, or hardback, click on the retail buttons on the website.

If you enjoy the free chapter, remember that you can order the ebook, paperback, or hardback copies on Amazon or from your preferred retailer worldwide.  And please post your reviews wherever you buy the book, especially on the review page of my book website. Your reviews really help the book gain more visibility – which will make me ecstatic and even more grateful for your support. 

Over to you:

Do you need help in boosting communication skills to get you results? Sign up here for my free quarterly newsletters and learn best practices. You’ll receive my evergreen resource on giving persuasive presentations when you sign up. Ensure you download that document and refer to it before any high-stakes presentation or speech.

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N.B: First  image  is courtesy  of John Hain via Pixabay. Second image is courtesy of Alexandra Koch via Pixabay. Videos, handwriting sample, and Amazon screenshots are courtesy of Lucille Ossai.

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