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Can “Virtual” Connection Be Real?

This post was written by Hannah Morris, Director of Assessment & Advancement at The Latimer Group.

Like many of you, I had some experience with virtual communication prior to this year, but it was not yet a mainstay of my work. And, like many others, I was skeptical about its use as a replacement for face-to-face interactions. Even the term “virtual” felt like a constant reminder that it was not “real”, just a hologram of what we could do in person. It seemed “virtually” impossible to achieve the same results in the two different environments.

But when we are forced to depend on something we have resisted, we often find that our perspective changes rapidly. Enter 2020.

While I still miss aspects of the in-person environment, I am finding unexpected satisfaction and success through virtual communication. I am now connecting with more people from more different places and perspectives than ever before. And that connection, for the most part, feels quite real. Here are a few of the lessons that have shaped my transition to and full embracement of virtual:

Inviting people in is powerful.

We used to hold trainings in conference rooms; now we are doing them in peoples’ homes and offices. We’ve had toddlers walk in, school-age kids appear, cats walk in front of screens, and dogs bark. And it has been fine. When we are meeting new clients, we are seeing them on video instead of relying on a phone call. By sharing a glimpse into our lives, through the background of our home offices and the distractions of our new “office mates”, we are creating more opportunities for connection. We are learning more and sharing more. This can be true not only with our colleagues, but with our external partners as well. It can help us create faster, stronger relationships than we would have ever done over telephone lines.

“Good morning” doesn’t cut it anymore.

We are connecting with people from all over the world in our trainings. It is not uncommon for five time zones to be represented on a given call. And while we are used to working with participants from different countries, what has changed is that they no longer have to travel to and adapt to us. Now we are greeting them in their homes, at their time, which gives everyone a greater appreciation for and insight into their experience and perspective. This can be a powerful force in building the type of empathy that is critical to effective communication.

A level playing field creates new common ground.

There is a certain amount of vulnerability that we all experience when we are adapting to new environments – especially when technology is involved. At times, this may cause frustration. We’ve all been there. But this can also make us more open, humble, and eager to connect with others about our shared experiences, challenges, and successes. It can change the power dynamic and bring hidden voices and talents to light. It also serves as an excellent reminder that learning should be a daily activity and a lifelong pursuit. Because even when we feel that we have mastered one platform, we may get invited to a call on another and, all of a sudden, the buttons are in new places with new names, and we feel disoriented. Embracing a growth mindset and practicing our adaptation skills keep us fresh.

On a personal level, my husband’s and my families, which are scattered across six states, five time zones, and two countries, have never been more consistently and deeply connected. While our weekly Zoom calls cannot fully replace the joy of visiting in person, they certainly have buoyed our spirits, enriched our understanding of each other’s daily lives, and helped us process the challenging times we are all facing – together.

As we look ahead and consider what lies in the short- and long-term future, I am both confident and excited that virtual communication and connection will not only help us endure the coming months, but will be an important and welcome mainstay far, far beyond.

At The Latimer Group, we believe that great communication skills can change the world. We transform people and organizations with simple, repeatable techniques and mindsets. We teach persuasive communication skills through an integrated platform of corporate training, coaching, and eLearning. To learn more about how we can transform your organization, e-mail us at info@TheLatimerGroup.com

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