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I have been a technical lead / team lead working in the cybersecurity unit of my employer for close to 9 years. I am based in the USA.

As I have risen through the ranks, I have had to be more involved in meetings with our vendors, usually those that produce the software my team uses for security operations work. Today I had a long meeting (2 hours approximately) with a vendor to review contracts for new work for our team. Throughout the meeting, I noticed what I found to be distracting mannerisms such as:

  • running hands through hair
  • fiddling with glasses
  • tapping with fingers
  • voice fillers (sucking one's breath in, um, hmph etc.)

These gestures don't distract from hearing the message, but because I can see the other party, distract from the nonverbal message / overall communication. I don't think these mannerisms were done intentionally with aim of being rude or dismissive, but a nervous habit.

In this case, I did not speak up as the verbal message was clear. However, I do find the gestures distracting. I usually don't use video for calls unless they are important such as negotiation of legal contracts. Without video, the nonverbal aspect of communication is lost. I noted that all other participants had their webcams on, so I may stand out if I turn mine off.

  • Should I communicate that I find these mannerisms distracting if in the future they impair understanding?

  • As I am the customer, is saying anything in the meeting appropriate?

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  • Would they not be running hands through hair, too, when they would talk onsite, rather thank talking on zoom? Feb 8 at 21:13
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    If someone had a stutter are you going to ask them to stop stuttering because it bothers you? That isn't so different than what you are asking
    – Kupo
    Feb 11 at 19:54

4 Answers 4

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No you should not, in either case.

I have no idea why you would feel entitled enough to criticize another professional’s demeanor on a 2 hour long call, but get past it.

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  • I removed the word how in the question, if it came across as rude / condescending. Addtional context also added as to why I used video
    – Anthony
    Feb 8 at 1:51
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    The entire thing comes across as rude and condescending. If someone who worked for me told a supplier “your mannerisms bother me” they would be in for an ass-chewing they would not soon forget.
    – mxyzplk
    Feb 8 at 3:26
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With Zoom (and MS Teams) you can turn off incoming video.

It's designed to help save bandwidth, but can be used (of course) for other purposes.

As per Zoom's support website:

If you need to preserve bandwidth for shared content, or want to avoid mental fatigue from viewing multiple, active video participants, you can easily stop all incoming videos. This will only affect your view of the meeting, while others are unaffected and unaware.

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  • Please see edit. I noted all other participants had their webcams on, so turning mine off may make me stand out?
    – Anthony
    Feb 8 at 1:49
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    @Anthony You aren't turning off your webcam - everyone will still see you. You are only turning off incoming video. So you stop seeing everyone else's video and they won't know you aren't looking at them. Feb 8 at 2:27
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Should I communicate that I find these mannerisms distracting if in the future they impair understanding?

No. If there is something you don't understand, you can seek clarification. But that doesn't require commenting on the mannerisms.

As I am the customer, is saying anything in the meeting appropriate?

It is not appropriate.

If you don't like this vendor for any reason (including the mannerisms), and you are the sole authority on choosing vendors, you can decide to find a different vendor.

Otherwise, you'll have to find a way to get what you need while tolerating any distractions on the vendor's part. Just like they probably tolerate your mannerisms of which you might not be aware.

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I don't think you should raise any issues about those mannerisms because that would be inappropriate. However, I think that the existing answers excessively defensive, and the condescending and rude comment under your question suggesting that you were "obtuse" is especially out of place.

Please read about misophonia on the Internet as it could be the reason why some of those mannerisms (finger tapping and paralinguistic vocalizations) are distracting you. It is an existing and surprisingly common disorder that I am myself suffering from, hence my understanding. A visual analogue of such disorder also exists. On the other hand, it is also your own, and nobody else's responsibility, to make sure that it doesn't affect your performance in the workplace. It would be unfair and inappropriate to require all the other people to accommodate to you in this context.

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