Why Connection means more now than ever
A big part of my business is facilitating workshops with sales teams and their leaders….these days, all of these are on Zoom.
One of the things that initially worried me was how well I’d be able to connect with the participants as I’m not able to physically gauge their energy levels and many of the non verbal cues from chest down to truly get a sense of what I need to do to adjust.
And it’s true that I can’t see from the chest down, but it’s not true that I am unable to connect. In fact, I’ve learnt quickly that being able to connect on Zoom and on the phone have never been more important. Not just for me as a facilitator but for ANYONE who works with people in these times: leaders, consultants, sales people, customer service people, accountants, doctors….you get the idea. But here’s the skinny: if you struggled to connect in person, it’s actually okay. While some of the fundamentals apply, connecting in a COVID world demands an additional set of skills.
With remote teams, teams returning to the office in shifts, customers working from home, we need a set of basics to enable us to be effective in the way that we connect because frankly, these conditions may be here permanently (albeit in varying degrees)…
Instead of skills, let’s call the following qualities to cultivate and develop to help you to connect more effectively:
I can’t emphasise the value of curiosity enough. Ask yourself: “what can I discover about this person / these people that might surprise me?” “what is it about their background that could have led them to this perspective?” “what can I learn from them?” By its very nature, curiosity suggests that we ask more questions, that there’s more to learn and understand. On its own it develops a growth mindset, but as a practice it lays down new neural pathways and releases dopamine which makes it something we begin to enjoy.
Seeing the world through the eyes of the other facilitates empathy and connection. The ability to do that though can take some practice – especially when we’re talking about people who communicate very differently to us or whose world views are very different. Having empathy and seeing through the eyes of others doesn’t mean we agree with their perspective. It simply means we tune in to the way they communicate, and through that connection we’re better able to operate through their lens. When that happens, we significantly improve our impact because we meet them where they’re at, and bring them along with us. It’s not about convincing or persuading someone. And this is why we must have emotional agility because when we get stuck in our own strong feelings, we simply lose sight of the other perspective; we’re totally absorbed in our own view. Having emotional agility means practicing being the observer of our emotional responses so that we have the space to choose the most impactful response to connect. Still us; just deliberate rather than reflexive. Greater power in that.
Listen more than talk
Holding the space for someone as they tell you something is an act of service. Not many people do this. Conversations are often two or more people waiting for a gap to talk – to get their point across which does little to foster connection. It’s like watching people talk side by side but along parallel lines.
If you can imagine that when you’re listening, that your heart is open and that your metaphoric arms are outstretched to receive every bit of what’s being said, then you’ll get what this is all about. Making someone feel seen, heard and understood fast tracks trust if it’s done genuinely. If you add to this, the ability use clean language (using the same words that person has spoken back to them), you may have a connection for life. Very different to active listening. When we use words, we each have meaning attached to them. Our own meaning. Which is why the exact words matter. Not parroting. Just a few key words. And to do that, we have to pay attention. Be totally present.
So can we do these things on the phone? Yep. Can we do this on a video platform? Yep. Can we do this in person? Of course.
Remote working isn’t going anywhere for a while (I’ll wager never for some), so wouldn’t now be a great time to foster better connections with those you already work with and those you’d like to work with? If this is how we’ll communicate going forward, in lieu of being able to sit down in person over a coffee or in the office, our ability to connect well using phone and video becomes more important than ever.
Now is the time.