It’s a funny thing – communication.

Monday 27th April 2020

We deal with it every day. As a team, we like to think we’re ok at it – we spend our days helping others understand it and improve their skills in it.

But the rules have changed over the last few weeks. Things are different.

I’ve been reflecting these last few weeks on non-verbal skills and the impact of our enforced engagement in virtual conversation has highlighted just how much I relied on them!

Team meetings on Zoom.

My team have been superb at adjusting – I know there are those of us who, previous to Lockdown Life hadn’t even dipped our proverbial toe into the waters of the ocean that is virtual conversing. Now I was asking them to scuba-dive in it!

Were we old school? Probably. Some may even say archaic (thank you to my pre-teen nieces for dating me so eloquently).

Shy? Introverted? Overly self conscious about seeing our physical selves displayed before us? Maybe.

My team are able to empathise at an extremely high level; being instinctively good at ‘just knowing’ what someone needs and what can be done. It’s the non-verbal communication that helps us process feelings, intentions and expectations.

The team have gone beyond their duty to not just adapt to this new form of communication, but to engage completely. For others.

So my first observation, then is about how difficult it is to use our previous forms of non-verbal communication to engage.

When I speak with my team in ‘real-life’, they can see the subtleties; minute changes in my face or body language that lets them know the intention behind my conversation.

Not in virtual life so much.

I have come to realise I use sarcasm. Ok, to be fair I was fully aware of this prior to regular use of virtual conferencing platforms; but I have become acutely aware of how vital my non-verbal communication was in acting as an interpreter to my audience; providing the truth behind the ‘lie’ of the spoken word. I have noticed that my non-verbal communication may be more likely to be misinterpreted in this virtual world – which could be a big problem.

It levels the playing field somewhat. We are now experiencing in a virtual world what many have been experiencing previously – the fear of being misunderstood due to misconception or another’s perception of the message that is being conveyed.

Working with logical. literal thinkers, I have spent many a conversation explaining and teaching about sarcasm. I’m constantly stressing the importance of use of sarcasm alongside the literal interpretation, to increase acceptance and understanding – however online conversation has meant I have to take that up a notch.  I now have to use these strategies as a matter of course.

Now, even those that may think they’re good in ‘real life’ at picking up the subtleties of social discourse, are having to upskill – active and effective listening and observation skills are being honed daily. If we want to continue to be understood by others and our messages perceived as we had intended, we have to increase the explanation and not rely on the non-verbal as much as we did before.

Not only that, but I can’t tell who is talking to who at our Zoom meetings?! My non-verbal communication techniques skills have become ineffective.

My superpower stripped.

Those subtle head movements and use of eye contact indicating whose ears are intended as the target of the impending verbal message, no longer work. It’s like someone has unplugged our non-verbal element and I have to cue in to my other, lesser used components in order to function effectively. We have to now excessively use verbal communication to indicate the name of the person we want to attend to our message if it that message has been personalised for a specific listener.

That sounds familiar – use of name before information is another common strategy used to engage those neurodivergents who need clear information that the speaker is talking to them and that they are required to attend to it.

Levelling the playing field.

Non-verbal communication in training.

It doesn’t look like it used to.

I joined a webinar this week – a great speaker, discussing how to ensure your teams are engaged, the importance of understanding the needs of individuals and knowing the ‘why’ of our business.

Great talk; starting with a ‘Tiktok’ – style song and an instruction for three nominated individuals to follow his lead in doing the ‘worm’ (a breakdance style dance move for those who are a little less archaic than I) across their respective home office floors.

This talk would have been so much more effective if the host had remembered to turn on the video function of the 3o+ attendees. The result being we could all see our speaker, but his view consisted of a screen of muted names, photos and company logos. This guy, who quite clearly was a great public speaker, had found himself in front of a public with no ability to provide him with any form of feedback of his efforts.

Essentially he was talking to a brick wall.

No non-verbal information providing him with essential feedback on how his training hooks and messages were being perceived.

No way of knowing if his audience was sitting enthralled by that carefully chosen anecdote he had anticipated would be engaging or whether they had started to check their email, in which case he should swiftly move on to the next point.

No way of knowing (other than the occasional ‘ping’ as attendees left platform) if people were liking what he was saying.

He could only guess at whether any premature departure was due to the desperate need of assistance of a 5 yr old dependent or, in fact they found his talk boring and unnecessary.

His attendees did not even have to conform to the unwritten social rules of exiting training rooms; when we leave a virtual platform we can leave without apology apparently.

We don’t have the compulsion (and in this case we hadn’t even the means) to do the wide mouthed, thumbs up, insistent head shaking ‘it’s me – not you’ message of –  ‘sorry – I’m going to have to rush – but loving the talk, thanks so much’ as we sidle apologetically out of the door.

No, all this guy got was the shared ‘ping’ that felt a little like the harshly oversimplified and under communicated  ‘no likey, no lighty’ of the worryingly popular TV series or the dramatic buzzer of another where your self esteem and confidence are precariously placed on a platform and exposed to audience behaviour akin to that which determined the fate of the brave, Roman gladiator.

So, in conclusion, I may have to admit finally that I am an addict of non-verbal communication; my over-reliance on its use and its effects have been exposed to me, and no doubt those around me over the last few weeks.

Only time will tell if this is true I guess and no doubt I will keep you all informed (I have no access to your non-verbal communication as you scroll through my musings, so I shall continue in a blissful state of ignorance, my self esteem intact.)

Keep well and communicate (in whatever form you choose), to feel better.

Privacy Policy

July 2018

We’ve created this policy, which covers how we collect, use, disclose, transfer and store your data.


Alpha Inclusion Limited is a Limited Company and our company number is 09277655. Trading names of Alpha Inclusion Limited include ‘Alpha Inclusion’ and ‘Alpha Communication’. We take our responsibilities as a data controller seriously and are committed to using the personal data we hold in accordance with the law.

This privacy notice provides detailed information about how we process personal data. Please read it carefully and, if you have questions regarding your personal data or its use, please contact the Administrator by email on by telephone on 01603 926170; or, by post at Suite 9b, Keswick Hall, Keswick, Norwich, NR4 6TJ.


We process personal data about prospective, current and past: pupils and their parents; staff, suppliers and contractors; and other individuals connected to or visiting Alpha Inclusion offices or The Block Bus.

The personal data we process takes different forms – it may be factual information, expressions of opinion, images or other recorded information which identifies or relates to a living individual. Examples include:

  • names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and other contact details;
  • family details;
  • admissions, academic, disciplinary and other education related records, information about special educational needs, references, examination scripts and marks;
  • education and employment data;
  • images, audio and video recordings;
  • courses, meetings or events attended.

As we provide services for schools and families, we need to process criminal records information about some individuals (particularly pupils and staff). We do so in accordance with applicable law (including with respect to safeguarding or employment) or by explicit consent.


We collect most of the personal data we process directly from the individual concerned (or in the case of pupils, from their parents) or from the school we are working with. In some cases, we collect data from third parties (for example, referees, previous schools, the Disclosure and Barring Service, or other professionals or authorities working with the individual) or from publicly available resources.

Personal data held by us is processed by appropriate members of staff for the purposes for which the data was provided. We take appropriate technical and organisational steps to ensure the security of personal data about individuals, including policies around use of technology and devices, and access to school systems. We do not transfer personal data outside of the European Economic Area unless we are satisfied that the personal data will be afforded an equivalent level of protection.

In the course of Alpha Inclusion business, we share personal data with third parties such as other professionals working with the individual and relevant authorities (eg the Local Children Safeguarding Board, DBS). Some of our systems are provided by third parties, eg hosted databases, Alpha Inclusion websites, staff calendar, school post, mailshot companies or cloud storage providers. This is always subject to contractual assurances that personal data will be kept securely and only in accordance with our specific directions.

We do not otherwise share or sell personal data to other organisations for their own purposes.


We process personal data to support the Company’s operation as an education and training provider, and in particular for:

  • The provision of educational, emotional and social skills support to children and young people, including the administration of the school curriculum and timetable; monitoring pupil progress and social, emotional and educational needs; reporting on the same internally and to parents; providing reports for school staff or for other professionals.
  • The provision of individual and group sessions to children, young people and staff, both at the site of the school or business or at other locations, including The Block Bus.
  • Training of staff at Alpha Inclusion premises or other sites.
  • The safeguarding of children and young people’s welfare and provision of pastoral care and welfare services by Alpha Inclusion staff.
  • Operational management including the compilation of records; the administration of invoices, fees and accounts; management planning and forecasting; the administration and implementation of the rules and policies of the schools and organisations we work with; the maintenance of historic archives and other operational purposes;
  • Staff administration including the recruitment of staff/ engagement of contractors (including compliance with DBS procedures); administration of payroll, pensions and sick leave; review and appraisal of staff performance; conduct of any grievance, capability or disciplinary procedures; and the maintenance of appropriate human resources records for current and former staff; and providing references;
  • The promotion of Alpha Inclusion Services through its own websites, leaflets and other publications and communications (including through our social media channels); and 

The processing set out above is carried out to fulfil our legal obligations (including those under our staff employment contracts). We also expect these purposes to form our legitimate interests.


Advertising helps us to achieve our strategic objective of remaining independent. We send out information about upcoming training or events through third parties, such as Mailchimp. We do not sell this data to third parties for their own use.

We keep in touch with current or former clients, parents or other members of the Alpha Inclusion community . We will use your contact details to keep you updated about our activities and invite you to events of interest by email and by post. We ask you to let us know your data preferences so that we can ensure our communications are relevant to you. You can update your data preferences at any time using the link on our emails. Your data preferences will not affect our contact with you as a current client or parent.


We retain personal data only for a legitimate and lawful reason and only for so long as necessary or required by law. If you have any specific queries about our record retention periods, or wish to request that your personal data is considered for erasure, please contact the Administrator at


You have various rights under Data Protection Law to access and understand the personal data we hold about you, and in some cases to ask for it to be erased or amended or for us to stop processing it, but subject to certain exemptions and limitations.

You always have the right to withdraw consent, where given, or otherwise object to receiving generic or advertising communications. Please be aware however that Alpha Inclusion may have another lawful reason to process the personal data in question even without your consent. That reason will usually have been asserted under this Privacy Notice, or may exist under some form of contract or agreement with the individual (e.g. an employment or contract).

If you would like to access or amend your personal data, or would like it to be transferred to another person or organisation, or have some other objection to how your personal data is used, please make your request in writing to the Administrator.

We will to respond to any such written requests as soon as is reasonably practicable and in any event within statutory time-limits, which is one month in the case of requests for access to information. We will be better able to respond quickly to smaller, targeted requests for information. If the request is manifestly excessive or similar to previous requests, we may ask you to reconsider or charge a proportionate fee, but only where Data Protection Law allows it.

You should be aware that certain data is exempt from the right of access. This may include information which identifies other individuals, or information which is subject to legal privilege. We are also not required to disclose any confidential reference given by the Company for the purposes of the education, training or employment of any individual.


The rights under Data Protection legislation belong to the individual to whom the data relates. However, we will often rely on parental consent to process personal data relating to pupils (if consent is required) unless, given the nature of the processing in question, and the pupil’s age and understanding, it is more appropriate to rely on the pupil’s consent.

Parents and guardians should be aware that Alpha Inclusion will ensure that the school we are working with has obtained consent for us to work with your child and provided you with information about how we process data.

In general, we will assume that young persons’ consent is not required for ordinary disclosure of their personal data to their parents, e.g. for the purposes of keeping parents informed about the pupil’s activities, progress and behaviour, and in the interests of the pupil’s welfare, unless, in the school’s opinion, there is a good reason to do otherwise.

However, where a young person seeks to raise concerns confidentially with a member of staff and expressly withholds their agreement to their personal data being disclosed to their parents, we may be under an obligation to maintain confidentiality unless, in our opinion, there is a good reason to do otherwise; for example where Alpha Inclusion or school staff believes disclosure will be in the best interests of the young person or other pupils, or is required by law.

Young people can make subject access requests for their own personal data, provided that they have sufficient maturity to understand the request they are making. Young people are generally assumed to have this level of maturity at age 13. A person with parental responsibility will generally be entitled to make a subject access request on behalf of children and young people, but the information in question is always considered to be the child’s at law. A child of any age may ask a parent or other representative to make a subject access request on their behalf. Moreover (if of sufficient maturity) their consent or authority may need to be sought by the parent making such a request.


We try to ensure that all personal data held in relation to an individual is as up to date and accurate as possible. Please notify of any significant changes to important information, such as contact details, held about you.


Our privacy notice should be read in conjunction with our other policies and terms and conditions which make reference to personal data, including our Safeguarding Policy, Health & Safety Policies and IT Policies.

We will update this Privacy Notice from time to time. Any substantial changes that affect how we process your personal data will be notified on our website and to you directly, as far as practicable.

If you believe that we have not complied with this policy or have acted otherwise than in accordance with Data Protection Law, you should notify the Administrator. You can also make a referral to or lodge a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), although the ICO recommends that steps are taken to resolve the matter with us before involving them.