Do you know how to stay connected in a time of social distancing?
After weeks of social distancing, even the most introverted among us misses engaging with other people. Everything—or so it seems—is cancelled. From major life events like weddings and graduations to simple everyday pleasures like a trip to the gym and getting a haircut: CANCELLED.
But do you know what isn’t cancelled? Our biologically hardwired need to connect with other people. Staying connected is essential business. The science of social connection reveals that our social needs are not a nicety that we can skip like a tasty latte. Connecting with people is vital for our well-being and isolation is unbelievably bad for us. To avoid the shockingly harmful effects of disconnection on everything from our health and stress levels to performance, we have to treat our connectedness as a top priority.
Do you know how to stay connected in this time of social distancing?
Social Distancing v. Distant Socializing. We have all spent time thinking about how to separate ourselves and stay safe (rightfully so), but how much mental energy have we devoted to staying in touch? Perhaps we need to re-frame the issue to focus on how we are distantly socializing (instead of just distancing).
Here are 5 practical ways to keep being social:
- Make a Phone Call. Hearing a familiar voice is reassuring in times of uncertainty, and you can pick up on so many verbal cues when listening to someone speak as opposed to reading text jargon. A tip for those of you who haven’t used the call feature recently: smile when you say hello! The other person cannot see your smile, but they can hear it. Also, be sure to speak loudly and clearly. We all have limited attention that gets easily derailed when it takes effort to hear people speak.
- Use a Video Platform. Seeing and hearing a family member or friend can strengthen emotional bonds. Be creative! Set up a game night, a coffee break, a happy hour, or a virtual party. Be present, avoid multitasking, make introductions as needed, and make sure everyone has a chance to engage. Connection made easy!
- Don’t Skip the Small Talk. Especially at work, don’t forget that the people on the other end of the line are human! Create connection by asking how they are doing and then listen. Getting to know our colleagues as humans helps our brains classify them as “in-group,” which helps us work better together (we process information from them more richly and make fewer cognitive errors).
- Daily or Weekly Check-Ins. Who needs to hear from you and who do you need to hear from? The days seem to melt into weeks right now. Set a specific time every day or week to connect with people that can keep you on track in this crazy season. Commit to sharing self-care practices with a friend or swapping funny stories with your grandma. These shared goals and experiences bond us far more than we realize.
- Mail a Handwritten Note. Go old school! The written word is powerful. Handwritten notes are typically read again and again. Receiving a note of encouragement always has a positive impact, but it could be a lifeline to someone right now. Don’t worry about your penmanship! It is your thoughts that matter, not your writing.
Distant socializing doesn’t just happen. We have to be intentional about our connectedness. Set a time, invite others, and show up! How do you want to be remembered? ™