How to connect despite social distancing
Life has just jumped tracks.
One minute we were heading into a recession…but we kind of knew how to handle that…and we could prepare ourselves for less spending by less individuals and businesses…It would hurt, but it was something we could handle.
Coronavirus is a whole other ball game. With giants falling fast and hard through imposed protocols implemented to protect the population, thousands of jobs being lost and less industries and businesses to pivot into, it’s uncertainty plus plus plus!
If the new normal for the time being is people not meeting in person as the norm, what do we need to develop instead to ensure we remain connected with our teams, our prospects and our clients? A new set of skills and practices must be added to our toolkits.
ONE: Technology is our friend – use it wisely and use it well
We live in a time when we’re used to using technology to connect with others via social media, face time and cloud based video conferencing services. It’s now about leveraging those tools effectively and appropriately in a way that will foster and develop a business relationship.
Using face time to speak with those you’d see and speak with on a daily basis makes sense: colleagues, team members and suppliers. But, don’t be distracted when doing this. Sit or stand and focus on the other person. Take time to let them know they matter to you by giving them your attention – even for 5 minutes
Social media platforms are good for messages to many but remember that LinkedIn is a business platform and while Facebook and Instagram can be too, ensure your brand is consistent. For example, if you’ve traditionally used Facebook and Instagram for your personal posts, don’t suddenly start posting business information. Set up a separate account to do that.
TWO: Use visual cues like you would in person to connect when using Facetime, Zoom, Skype or webex
You can only do this when you give the other person your full attention. Take time to check in with the other person: read the room – how are they feeling? What is going on for them right now? What is their greatest priority? How can you support them to make their lives a little bit easier? Matching and mirroring still applies here: the major difference is it’s primarily top half of the body so take note. Pay particular attention to facial expresssions and hand gestures. Language patterns are important too: pace of speech, breathing, pitch, volume and words will help you to connect faster.
Depending on the quality of your internet connection, there may be delays in communication from one person to the other. Practice is the key. Wait until the person has clearly finished and if you’ve finished, make it clear you have so the other person knows it’s their turn to speak. Having said that, the awkwardness of stumbling over one another can be a way of connecting if there is a shared sense of humour about it. Just remember, this is someone you value: treat them that way.
THREE: Build your auditory communication skills
And then there’s the phone. Avoided by many for actual phone calls, it’s one of the most direct communication tools we have available to us. Trouble is, it’s rarely used well. Here are a couple of tips to help you build better connections using your mobile:
If you’re on a joint call with many others, mute your microphone while others are speaking so that background noise doesn’t interfere with their message and sound quality
Match the tone of the call: is it professional, serious, factual, friendly, direct, story-based, detailed….read the room quickly and respond in kind to demonstrate respect
Listen for the pace, volume, pitch, breathing patterns and language patterns to match and mirror
Listen for the emotion underneath the call. Close your eyes to help you “tune in” better to your speaker
FOUR: ake a conscious effort to schedule calls and meetings the same way you would in person
We schedule face to face meetings so if we’re meeting virtually instead, make sure we schedule them in the same way. It’s important that the same degree of planning, focus and time is given. Do you know the outcome you want by the end of that conversation? Do you have a structure to achieve that? How well can you execute that?
FIVE: Email is not a replacement for an actual person to person conversation: merely a confirmation of it or interim communication tool
Period. In a time when we’re less able to meet in person, go to the next best tools: phone to speak with someone or video conferencing to see and speak with someone. Email is flat, open to misinterpretation and never a replacement for person to person actual conversation.
Skill up people! Relationships matter more than ever. Stay connected and build your capacity with technology so that they become the facilitators of deeper connections with the people we support and who support us.