Who are You in the Zoom Room?
How do you bring more of yourself to your virtual relationships and build connection and trust with your clients and colleagues?
When I first saw my sister on a virtual screen in 2008 she was in London and I was in Auckland. It felt so real, as though I could reach out and hug her. We raised our wine glasses together and I almost felt the clink of our glasses connecting. What was different was that I knew my sister - I knew her style, her preferences, her scent, her energy. That it felt so real, and wasn’t, was something of a mind-warp.
With online meetings and remote working becoming more commonplace it can seem somewhat challenging to fully connect with clients and colleagues who we’ve not yet met in person. I often hear people say that nothing beats a face to face interaction, where we receive much more information as to who is sitting in front of us. After all, in-person meetings offer us the opportunity to observe ‘who’ the person we are engaging with actually is right? – how they dress, their mannerisms, the added communication layer of observed body language…it all builds a picture of personal identity and expression. So how then can a face on a screen measure up to physical presence?
Well, maybe that additional information isn’t what really matters. Maybe it skews our perception of who they really are; what matters to them, what they value, and how they live their life - their true essence? In my view sometimes the information we perceive about another person can be more distracting than helpful.
I believe that strong connection and trust in the virtual space is comprised of two essential ingredients - our presence and our authenticity.
1. Our presence – meaning our state of awareness in the moment
To be fully present in an online conversation with someone:
- check in with your intention and how you want to ‘be’ for the person prior to engaging with them
- be aware of your breathing and your energy or mood, and consciously shift this to be engaged and focused
- remove any physical and external distractions such as emails, social media alerts, people walking past your window etc.
- listen at a deep level so that you are attuned to notice the subtle changes in tone, pitch and pace of the other person’s voice
- respond to what you hear in the moment, as opposed to formulating a response in terms of what you want to say
- notice generally how you react to others and become more aware of your own expressions of judgement (good or bad)
- become comfortable with silence and offer space for reflection and thinking
2. Our authenticity – meaning how real we are, and how much of this we share
When we offer a window of insight into who we are connects us at a deeper level and builds stronger relationships. To show up as your real self and share this:
- first be clear about who you are – your values, your strengths and talents, and your personal attributes – and know how you want to show up for others – virtually and in-person
- be open and honest about who you are - what you value, what you can contribute, how you work, your intention and your agenda
- be vulnerable yet comfortable with what you share – you don’t have to share everything about yourself or your personality – reveal parts of you that feel safe to share with that person
- share in a way that is relevant to the conversation – where your contribution adds value for the other person and allows them to understand your experiences and how it may relate to theirs
- share humour and laughter together where appropriate. Laughter releases tension, activates creativity and expanded thinking, and supports stronger social connection and rapport.
Virtual meeting platforms can allow for even more presence and connection as we bypass the subconscious assumptions we make about each other in our everyday physical interactions, and take a fresh perspective to learn more about people from what they offer us.