We know from years of research that human connection is critical to our well-being.
That loneliness is toxic.
That we need relationship to each other.
And yet here we are. With everyone from the federal government to the mayor to our doctors telling us (over and over and over ????) to practice “social distancing.”
Can I just tell you … I abhor this talk about social distancing?
Backing up a bit, social distance isn’t a new idea. It’s part of proxemics, the study of how humans use space. The experts would tell you we each have areas for intimate space, personal space, social space and public space.
In that context, our social distance is where we want business associates and casual acquaintances to hang out. It’s anywhere from four to ten feet away from us.
And, you know there’s a whole new focus now on the idea of social distancing as a public health strategy. They tell us to avoid big gatherings, say 10 or more people. And to stay six feet away from everybody.
I’ll take the experts’ word for it that doing that will slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, keep healthcare facilities from being swamped, and protect those who are most vulnerable.
I’ll stipulate that physical distance is a smart stay-healthy strategy given the rapid proliferation of the illness in other countries and our desire to avoid the same.
And I wish they wouldn’t call it social distance.
I’m for social closeness, even if it is smart to be separated in space.
Before the corona-crisis emerged, there was already widespread concern about a “loneliness epidemic.” Cigna reported that 61% of Americans are lonely. They tied it to the way we work—”increasing use of technology, more telecommuting and the always-on work culture.”
So here we are, responding to pervasive fear of infection with … yes, increasing use of technology and more telecommuting.
That’s not all. The Cigna study put part of the blame for loneliness on social media, pointing out that “very heavy social media users are significantly more likely to feel alone, isolated, left out and without companionship.”
So how are we doing our “social distancing?” We’re sharing our thoughts (and our fears) on Facebook.
How can we create a sense that we’re together, apart?
I’m looking for ways to have social closeness along with physical distancing. I know it’s important for me. And don’t you think most of us are better off when we feel close to someone?
Phone a friend.
I’ve had some delightful conversations already with people I hadn’t talked to in ages. We used to talk every so often. Now we like each other’s posts on LinkedIn. It’s just not enough, is it?
So, I picked up the phone and called a couple of longtime friends. And my cousin. I even got to talk to a buddy who’s stranded on a cruise ship (don’t ask).
The cruise line’s giving them free Ship-to-Shore phone calls. It felt like the days when long distance was a big deal and you passed the phone around to the whole family and talked fast to your grandma in Florida.
I’m not alone, turning to the phone. At Adjunct Advisors, Meg McKeen says, “I’ve noticed an uptick in phone calls from friends and loved ones … ’just checking in,’ and have suggested the same to colleagues.”
“It’s the next best thing to being there,” as the old Ma Bell used to say.
My preference is always to get together In Real Life. And, when we can’t, we can’t. I’m scheduling meetings on Zoom and Skype … my Roundtable’s gathering on Google Hangouts. Executive coach Parissa Behnia is putting virtual coffees on her calendar.
If it’s at all possible, meet your people on a video platform rather than a conference call. Humans pick up so many cues from each other’s faces. Communication is much more limited when we have only voice to go on. (And don’t get me started on texting and email!)
Don’t drop business development.
It might be tempting. Prospects are busy, they don’t want to hear from me, they’re pulling back, not spending more. We could tell ourselves all kinds of stories.
In fact, this is a good time to stay in touch.
Brad Farris helps million-dollar businesses grow to five million, even when the economy is corona-precarious. He says, “I’m getting on the phone to touch base with everyone I can, clients, prospects, team members, referral partners. I feel like this is the time for the human touch!”
Video story expert Kristian Altuve is putting the lull to good use, turning to LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find software companies who’ve been in business at least 3 years. Then he’ll create content specific to them to share on LinkedIn.
Writer and content marketer Lynn Miller says she “started the day with a workout on a Free fitness channel and the next few hours were very productive.”
She’s taking a walk every day too. I need to take a page out of Lynn’s book! I’m excited that the yoga studios I’ve been meaning to go to one of these days are offering online classes. No excuse for not taking one.
Whatever you do, find a way to stay close.
Because, really, we all need that. Brand strategist Nick Richtsmeier says we’ll “retain a piece of this in the way we relate, do business, engage. Even asking the question of how we retain high-quality relationships (so important) reframes success in a business context. And that is a good thing.”
And watch the words you choose.
Career coach Catherine Morgan is with me on the language question: “I sincerely wish they had said “physical distancing” because social distancing is exactly what we DON’T need,” she says. “We need to come together. We need to support each other.”
You know you have my support. I hope I have yours. And if you have some insight about being socially close at a physical distance, we could all use that.
Share it in a comment below.
As always, so on point and so well written. These are frightening times and the need for connection is now greater than ever. I’ve re-introduced (is that a word) so many of my text-crazy friends to the idea of a phone call. I find it so much more effective.
I wish I could say, “We’ve been through worse…” but honestly, except for my husband’s cancer situation which only affected us, I can’t honestly think of a time for our generation when it has seemed worse. I guess we look to the tenacity of “The Greatest Generation” and how they came through both the great Depression and WWII. Might be time to watch Mrs. Miniver again.
Hope to see you – in person and not from a distance – soon.
Thanks, Denise, I’m glad this one hit the mark for you. I know a lot of people prefer texting; I’m with you in seeking to go back to actual conversations, for now at least. You’re right–we’ve never been through anything like this. The post-September 11 period was similar in some way, in terms of business impact and that palpable fear that we can pick up from each other. But even that doesn’t really compare to what’s going on now. We’re all learning some things, I’d guess — about ourselves and each other. Yes, I’ll look forward to being together sometime soon.
All so true. Thank you for giving us other ways to look at things as we navigate these surreal times. Stay well.
Our language is so powerful, Toni. I have to mind my words if I want to maintain my upbeat (okay, MOSTLY upbeat) attitude. See you on the other side of the coronacrisis …
Exactly! I really like the distinction you made between social and physical distancing!
My business is thriving in this crisis. I am a hypnotist and the deeper we get into the virus news the more my phone rings for panic attacks and stress relief!
I am seeing all clients now online…on ZOOM.
And I’m teaching a 4-hour workshop on Sunday…online! No cancellations. No worries.
Socially connected…physically distant.
That’s for learning.
And I have a plan for keeping social engagements too! A dinner party can easily be arranged. You cook meals at your house, I’ll cook at mine. We’ll set up laptops on the table and ZOOM with friends for dinner.
If this isolation lasts too long…we might get used to this.
I want in on one of those Zoom dinner parties, Karen!
I’m totally in on using the phone. i speak with my son several times a day. He calls me to check in and that means everything! These are the times when you really learn what you and others are made of…Great post as always!!!
There is something about hearing a person’s voice, Gale — it gives us a richer experience than a text or an email, shades of meaning that we might miss if we’re just reading their words. And I know a lot of moms who’d be thrilled if their son called even once a day!
Catherine – I don’t have any new insights, just a huge thank you for writing this and the encouragement to stay socially strong in these uncertain times! It’s so hard to switch things up with immediate action when a majority of one’s own energy (or that of an organization or business) comes from other real people in day to day activities.
It’s true, Amy. Many of us thrive in a community. In my own work, I’m best interacting with an audience, rather than standing on a stage delivering a “speech.” This physical distancing we’re being told to do is challenging for those who derive energy in the connection with others. It’s important to make the effort to connect as we can, even if Zoom and Skype and Facetime aren’t a perfect substitute for a handshake or a hug.
I typically seldom have phone conversations with others, but when I do, they tend to be long, perhaps an hour our more to catch up. Now I’m aiming for more frequent phone conversations–every few days or even daily–of shorter duration. Especially check-ins on people who live alone.
Also, I try to call before 10 pm. I find that even tho I feel ok, I tend to deal with stress by sleeping more. Many people are going to bed earlier, both because they are exhausted from the stress and also as a good-health practice.
I don’t usually talk on the phone as much as I used to either, Diana. With email and texts and social networking, the kind of long chats I used to have on the phone have fallen by the wayside. Until now. I set an intention to have at least one conversation with a friend every day…and that’s been a great thing.