Connection matters: Technology, communication and connection
COVID-19 is forcing us to adopt the technologies that some of us have successfully avoided up to this point. Even those who are comfortable with technology acknowledge the tactile differences between in-person and virtual meetings. A few task force members with whom I often work have resolutely refused to learn new platforms. They insist that documents be attached to emails as Word documents. I’m happy to do it. I understand their frustration with the learning curve and idiosyncrasies of each new “app.” COVID-19 is not so flexible. Some of those task force members have now been directed to pack up necessary items from their brick-and-mortar offices and work or deliver classes remotely.
In this surreal time, how do we use technology to connect and collaborate with one another? How do we view technology as a tool to enhance communication and productivity while acknowledging that there is no substitute for human touch?
In 2013, I enrolled in a transformational life coach certificate course at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. When it came time to apply our new skills, my cohort and I discovered that we would be coaching some of our clients virtually. Having grown up as the daughter of a psychiatric social worker who worked face-to-face with her clients and their families, I was skeptical. Isn’t it common knowledge that only 7 percent of communication is verbal? More specifically, according to Professor Emeritus of Psychology Albert Mehrabian at the University of California, Los Angeles, 55 percent of non-verbal communication is made up of body language while 38 percent is conveyed through tone of voice.
By experiencing the online coaching process and, subsequently, through work with task forces using teleconference platforms, I came to appreciate the effectiveness of virtual delivery. Though I often use audio only, I have learned to pick up signals other than “body language.” As noted in my last article, I have learned to read the silences. If I don’t know the reason for a silence, I ask. My attunement and sensitivity to the pace, tone, inflection and choice of words have increased.
So has my willingness to ask when I need more information.
My most effective teams excel because we share a safe space, an environment in which each member is encouraged to express their thoughts. Our approach is governed by two rules: (1) No apologies. We’re glad each member is here and contributing; and (2) Feel free. Without communication, we have nothing and can go nowhere. It is those fleeting and seemingly insignificant thoughts, when expressed, that often add the most value.
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