Difficult Relationships

This morning I realized that it had been many days since I had been in a room with a human being other than my wife. I see other people on the Zoom video conferencing platform. I talk to relatives and friends on the phone. I look at photos posted on social networks. However, physical contact with other people has already become an abstraction.
Last Updated
June 17, 2020

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And this can create a lot of communication problems.

When you are surrounded by people, you get a lot of information about their feelings and thoughts from the way they behave. You see the smile on their faces when you praise them for a job well done. You can hear the changes in the tone of their voice when they answer a question. In live contacts, feedback is instantaneous. People nod in agreement as you speak. You ask a question - they answer.

Today, in conditions of social distancing due to the coronavirus crisis, one cannot rely on these social signals. The poor internet connection can transform the tone of your colleagues' voices and distort their facial expressions. You cannot see all your employees on the phone screen.

Eventually, one begins to fill in the gaps left by the missing social signs with one's own thoughts. Like everyone else, you are probably currently under a lot of stress, which makes you perceive the reactions of others in the most negative way possible. You may assume that they do not respond to your emails because you have offended them with something, but in fact they may have simply missed them under the pile of messages accumulated during the days of remote work.

A number of studies show that people's behavior can be quite ambiguous, so one puts a lot of effort into interpreting the meaning of the actions of others. You probably don't even realize that you are filling these gaps in communication with your own thoughts and interpretations.

To counteract this harmful habit and increase the effectiveness of your communication with others in conditions of social distancing, you can do several things:

Show understanding, most people are not idiots

When someone makes a mistake or fails to perform a task set by you, do not attribute this to incompetence. Most people around you try to do your job as best you can give the circumstances. At the moment, we are all under tremendous stress. Your colleagues and employees may have sick friends or relatives. They may have children who constantly distract them and require more attention.

Just accept that the shortcomings of others at the moment are due to the insane situation we are all going through, not to the fact that they are lazy, malicious, or incompetent. If your question goes unanswered, just ask again. If the work of one of your employees does not meet the set standards, make suggestions on how he can improve his performance. If someone says something that sounds illogical to you, just ignore it.

Do not escalate the voltage

One of the reasons you give credit to others is that you limit the likelihood of escalating tensions. Even in the most ordinary days of our daily lives, there are times when tensions between people in the workplace reach quite high levels. Now, however, we do not live in normal times.

Schedules change constantly and without warning. Companies try to achieve greater results with fewer resources. Many jobs are under threat of closure. In general, the situation is marked by boundless uncertainty.

It's easy to let go of your anger and criticize someone who makes your job harder. The problem is that it will respond not only to your specific criticisms but also to the tone and energy with which you addressed them. Soon the tension will escalate to such an extent that each member of your team will be tense and will not be able to focus on their tasks. It is difficult to be productive in such a work environment.

That's why it's important not to escalate the tension further. If someone does or says something that annoys you, take a deep breath, and respond slowly. If someone else escalates the situation, do not follow his example. Give others a chance to answer you and don't let things get out of hand.

When in doubt, ask

One of the biggest problems in communication in conditions of social isolation stems from the fact that one simply does not receive enough information about the thoughts and feelings of others. As a result, well-intentioned requests or comments may be misunderstood.

This means that you must constantly make a focused effort to extract additional information about the attitudes and conditions of your colleagues, customers, and business partners. The best way to achieve this goal is by asking.

If you feel that you have overreacted to a colleague's statement, ask if you have behaved inappropriately and insulted him or her. If you feel that someone is nervous, scared, or confused by the situation at work, enter into a discussion with them.

This strategy has two positive effects: first, it allows you to get a better idea of ​​how others are dealing with the unusual.

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