Fostering Connections in the New Norm

If we didn’t realize it before, the pandemic certainly proved how important human connections truly are. As social creatures, we thrive on interaction with our peers. So, it is no surprise that many of us struggled personally and professionally while unable to connect with family, friends, colleagues, and coworkers for an extended period of time. However, with vaccinations helping to increase our ability to see each other once again, one of the biggest opportunities we are presented with is the potential to reconnect and start new connections.

We need to consider just how much the last couple of years distanced us from others, aim to accept and adapt to the things that have changed, and actively work to rekindle existing relationships while continuing to build new ones. For example, offices are reopening and we need to understand the pace and extent of the reopening. Water cooler jokes may be obsolete, but connecting via Zoom will probably be here for the long-term.

So, what can you do in this new norm to adjust in order to foster worthwhile and effective connections? This should not be a sophisticated analytical exercise. Instead, I suggest simpler and, sometimes, known recommendations that can be quickly adapted:

  • Small moments make a difference. Saying please and thank you go a long way. Asking, “how are you?” (and truly listening to the response) can really benefit a conversation.
  • Be brief. Keep things simple whenever possible. And, when creating a presentation, try cutting it in half… then cut it in half again! It’s better to keep people wanting more.
  • Make a meaningful impression. Did you know that 90% of most impressions are made in the first 30 seconds of contact, and they are not based on the substance of the communicationMake those 30 seconds count.
  • Utilize facial expressions and body language. Your eyes, mouth, brows, and other facial features can reveal more than what you say. These clues give professionals better effectiveness in meetings. Especially with the rise of virtual interactions, it’s helpful to be more expressive in order to convey your meaning and/or attitude.
  • Interpersonal trust. Invest in building personal trust and developing richer sensory experiences that help cultivate connections. For example, our sense of touch (like when we shake hands) conveys emotions that can greatly enhance our communications.
  • Develop and use new communication tools and don’t depend on PowerPoint. It is among the most overused current communication tool and it ignores the needs of the audience. There is nothing worse than having the lights go out and sitting through a 30-60 minute canned, slick, PowerPoint sales presentation. Instead, aim to create a presentation that engages and interacts with your audience.
  • Understand and respect colleagues, clients, and competition. Asking questions is one of the best ways to gain a better understanding of someone else’s experience. Additionally, when reviewing your service offering or considering new ideas, try asking yourself what customers are currently using and how your product or service is better? In other words, why should customers choose you? Genuinely knowing your customers will help you answer these questions.
  • Recognize the benefits and strengths we learned from video and virtual communication. Workers are becoming increasingly comfortable using video and audio-conferencing technology. Companies are acknowledging and accepting the benefits of online meetings, such as greater reach and efficiency. Use these to your advantage.

Cartoon with one person advising another person who is trying to make a Zoom meeting.  Advisor says "The reason they seem so small is because you have all 12,000 employees on your Zoom meeting."

  • Focus on engagement. Distractions continue to be a challenge, but they aren’t a result of technological limitations. The solution is actually in the way we run meetings. With enhanced visibility, live chat, polls, surveys, and even sub-conferencing features, guests can easily ask questions, gain clarity, brainstorm, and collaborate together. It’s just a matter of finding what works best for your meetings.
  • A great presentation relies on several different aspects. It’s not just about the words you say or the images you show. The entire experience plays a part in how much the audience retains or feels inspired. People can become preoccupied with the environment of the meeting. Communication, lighting, room temperature, and other factors can ruin a connection. The easiest recommendation to improve audience connection is with food. We all know what it’s like to get hungry, bored, and distracted, especially in long sessions. Taking breaks and offering snacks can reduce boredom and fatigue.

Interpersonal connections are the glue holding together our social circles, our business networks, and our company cultures. When we put in the work to maintain existing relationships and strive to establish new connections in a healthy, respectful, and effective manner, our lives and businesses are better off for it. While some people may have grown distant over the last couple ears, there are always ways to reach out and revive these connections. Great opportunities often arise from those we know. And when we are all looking out for one another, rooting for each other, and helping one another succeed, that’s when we know we’ve truly cultivated valuable and genuine connections.

Related: Will You Change with Change?