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Life skills: How do you tell someone they're not muted during a work Zoom call?

By Hannah Herrera Greenspan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Q: How do you politely tell people they're not on mute during a work Zoom call?

A: The most important thing is to be subtle and gentle about it. You can always send a private message to let them know that they haven't turned the microphone off.

Alternatively, depending on your comfort or familiarity with the meeting attendees, you can always make a lighthearted remark about it. The key is to avoid calling someone out if you can and to make it seem as if they've arrived at the conclusion on their own. For instance, if you hear someone ordering dinner in the background, you can say, "Oh fried chicken sounds great, Jenny."

It's a group setting, and you want to avoid embarrassing everyone.

The other thing to keep in mind is that these types of things happen as we've switched to remote work. And with more virtual and online interactions, it's inevitable that mishaps will happen. As long as we approach them with poise, grace and empathy, I don't think it's a big deal.

- Scott Steinberg, president of The International Association for Business Development and Strategic Partnerships


A: I don't tell people, and that isn't a flippant answer, or because I'm being too polite (however Midwestern I may be).

I genuinely find whatever life they are trying to shut out more interesting than the life they are trying to present. So when someone thinks he's muted and starts talking to his cat, it is very refreshing! There's a real human being emerging on the other screen!

Zoom calls are too performative; how could they not be? Work Zooms are often the worst kind of Zoom calls - no one knows how casual they can be. One of my colleagues summarized it best as "a blurring of the public and private spaces." It's unfiltered, unairbrushed life rearing its ugly, little head. There is no way I'd want to mute that precious gem.

- Ben Claus, yoga instructor and writer

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