Sure seems to be a lot of advice out there.   Seems like every email I get is from some business who is there for me “during Covid-19”.  Are you getting those?  Are they bothering you?

Are you seeing lots of tips on having good zoom meetings?  How to get the lighting right.  How to get the virtual background just right so you can pretend you are in Mexico on the beach, when you are actually in Omaha in your pajama bottoms and blouse.  How to make your average face look better up close.  That will be hard for people like me!

Here is one you may not have heard:   be aware that you are twice as physically close as usual.  Though miles away from each other, we appear closer, since we are often 15-18” inches from our computer cameras, vs 24”-48” when at a meeting or talking to someone at the office or shop.

We have a tendency to avoid conflict face to face…and perhaps even more online.  Why?

  1. We are concerned about breaking our interpersonal connections.   It happens in person.  We fear it will happen more easily on-line, since we already feel disconnected.
  2. Some of us are still learning the technology of on-line meetings, and a bit anxious to begin with.
  3. We can’t read body language; we mostly just see faces.

The antidote:

  1. Build bonds of connection by always doing a personal check in.  Do not let it take more than 30 seconds per person, (depending on the size of the group) but do it before each meeting.  Ask how is your stress level 1-5?   Or, how are you feeling today?  Or if fitting, how is your family? Make sure the facilitator does not let anyone talk for more than 30 seconds.
  2. Ask everyone to name one thing for which they are grateful.  This can help steer us from our fearful, survival brain mode towards a thriving brain mode.
  3. Realize you are now in the realm of personal space.  In the USA 18-24” is the typical amount of space between close friends and spouses.    24”-48” was the typical amount of personal space between people at work, pre-Covid-19, at the shop or office.  And now we are all, most of the time, even closer than that!
  4. Don’t be too close to your computer camera
  5. Get the lighting right:  not too bright, not too dark (mostly people do not have enough light)
  6. Pay attention to subtle facial gestures.   We do communicate a lot with our eyes and our faces.  Watch for those signals.
  7. Listen extra carefully to the tone.  Let go of what you want to say and really listen to them.  Are they irritated?   Frustrated?  Calm?
  8. Over communicate.   Don’t take too much time, but make sure you communicate clearly and get feedback from others, to make sure they heard you.
  9. Be aware that every little facial gesture is magnified.  No eye rolling please.  It may be a sign of contempt, and that is a bad sign.
  10. Boldly and gently express your perspective, with as much humility as you can muster.  Make sure to include your feelings, about the topic at hand.

Meeting virtually is, like everything else, a learned behavior.  You will be amazed how much you can get out of it once you and your team begin to be comfortable working this way. It may seem natural to wait to discuss tough issues until everyone is in person, but that may not be an option. So, don’t shy away from controversial topics.

Please be in touch and let me know how your meetings are going.
I want you to know I am “here for you” during Covid-19.

I am praying for all of you.  “May God keep you safe, until the word of your life is fully spoken.”   Margaret Fuller

About Tom Esch

Tom Esch works with health care companies, counties, cities, construction companies, business analysts, attorneys, executives, owners, managers and non-profit executives to grow interpersonal awareness and foster effective communication.