Communication

Simple ways to connect with each other, even virtually

Connections to each other are critical right now. All of us are experiencing a pandemic, along with many accompanying worries and struggles. 

We need each other.

And we can’t see each other… in person or up close. (And some of us are seeing a few people a LOT, up real close… all the time!)

I’ll be real, I fit less into a day than I used to. I am moving slow and I engage less. 

It makes sense that this is where I am at in this stage of a pandemic.

Yet it is a tricky place – less capacity and more need for humans and connection.

If you are like me, you need some new ways or simple reminders of how we can still connect with each other.

Here are a few from me + more ideas from awesome women in a business group I am a part of. (And looking for ways to be alone… I’ve got ideas for that too!)

Ways to connect with family & friends you live with:

  • Play cards, a Board game, do a craft or a puzzle… non-screen activities without high stakes
  • Set aside coffee dates or date nights and turn off the screens & any household tasks or to-do lists
  • Slow down a bit when you are doing things for those you live with – while cooking or making a pot of coffee, think about who you are doing it for, and the care you are offering them
  • Build a short, doable family ritual in the morning – a song you always listen to at the beginning of the day or a brief walk you take together

Connect with friends & family you aren’t seeing in person:

  • Set up longer video calls over dinner or over a morning with a cup of coffee in hand (Zoom, WhatsApp, Houseparty)
  • Send real snail mail – perhaps pictures you have doodled during a zoom call, look at these blank postcards my son & I are decorating. Have a few cards already stamped and ready to send
  • Send short voice texts with text messages or WhatsApp (quicker than texting and fun to receive)
  • Start a picture sending project via text with a friend or group (think of it as the original Instagram, right now I send a real picture of the chaos of our messy house to two friends every few days)
  • Create new groups in text to stay in touch with & give them fabulous labels
  • Play games long distance with friends & family (Jack Box, Psych! etc.)

Connect with your team & co-workers:

You may be with your co-workers or team all the time on Zoom, and some of you are in person in stressful high stakes situations with your co-workers. However, neither of these scenarios guarantee real connection. Take a minute when you can to connect in small ways outside of the immediate work and it will make the work less stressful.

  • Have a co-working day with folks on Zoom, hang out and get work done
  • Add a few enjoyable activities to video meetings like share & tell or playing “highlights” or check-in question (only takes a few minutes and slows down the nonstop work meeting vibe)
  • Set up opportunities for folks to discuss and work in small groups and pairs while on video calls (we can forget that smaller groups even virtually create deeper connection) 
  • Offer office hours on zoom for folks to drop in & ask any questions they have
  • Offer coffee hour on zoom for folks to drop in and connect or other optional group gatherings like games or a poetry writing session
  • Drop off small care packages at your team’s door
  • Check out these helpful reminder phrases to build connection on Zoom work calls
  • In-person (and virtual) – find one small appreciation and offer it to folks on your team, make it a practice to seek out one appreciation per day for a different co-worker

Connect with yourself!

It is quite possible you need time alone and a reminder that it is totally a-okay to burrow in when needed. It is OKAY!

  • Take a walk in the middle of a workday
  • Plug into your earbuds to do the dishes or household tasks and give the fam a heads up that you are checking out for a minute
  • Set aside 4 minutes a day to breathe in and out, use a timer and hide as needed (bathrooms & closets work great)
  • Slow down and make simple things you do already more of a ritual – the coffee making, the egg frying, the teeth brushing
  • Turn off the screens for a few minutes a day

It is OKAY to be less in touch & need to be alone. If you can, let the folks around you or in your community know what you need – you could offer a simple – “I know I have been out of touch, I care about you & just doing my best right now to keep my head above water.” Or to your in-house humans, “I love you and I need to grab some alone time to recharge.”

Feeling alone in your work or community? 

Reach out, send a text, and let someone know you need to talk.

May you find moments of connection with the people in your life and may you find moments of rest and quiet.

What else simple ways are you building connection with others?

Rheanna SmithSimple ways to connect with each other, even virtually
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How to stay open when you are ready to shut the conversation down

My throat tightens and my neck and shoulders pull in toward my back.
She says to me again, “I am wondering if we can talk more about what just happened?”

Everything quickens, my mind jumps, and I think, “What did I do? What is wrong?”

I begin to feel nervous and a bit ashamed.
I do not like feeling ashamed.
And I know for me nervous often leads to anxious.
I do not like anxious… I want this feeling to end quickly, now.
 
I blurt out “oh I know, I know… I didn’t mean to” before she has even finished her second sentence.
Whew that took care of that – now we can move on!
 
Or another time… my heartbeat quickens, my face flushes hot.
This person is telling me their opinion and whoa are they so wrong!
“Oh no you don’t,” I think… “you have no idea… you do not understand the reality of the situation in the least.”
 
I jump in and interject my opinion, explaining the correct way, of course!
 
And they fly back with an even hotter remark about the way we see it. Game on!
Or they clench their jaw and stop talking. And I have won.
 
These could be hypothetical examples of moments when we lose our cool, are about to receive tough feedback, or hear a viewpoint that is completely different than ours.
 
However, they are not hypothetical for me – both instances happened in the last four weeks.

You may relate.
 
My quick response to protect myself from feeling anything does not help anything change nor does it lead to better relationships.
I am working at not going into these states of behavior immediately.
I try to slow down and stay open.
 
When I can stay open, non-defensive and listen, I can: 

  • deepen my connection with colleagues,
  • develop the muscles to stay in moments that are uncomfortable,
  • learn that I can become a more aware & empathetic version of myself.

Here are the steps I take in the middle of a challenging conversation to stay open.

(Oh, did you miss part 1? Check out this video about why we shut conversations down.

I made a downloadable guide just for you (and me) – with the steps I use to stay non-defensive when the conversation gets sticky.
 
A few of my favorite resources are in the guide too!

May we all deepen our ability to engage in rich, fruitful, world changing conversations with each other.

Rheanna SmithHow to stay open when you are ready to shut the conversation down
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Why we shut down when the conversation gets difficult & what to do about it

There is one skill I am using more than any other in this time of Covid, US elections, & racial justice movement building, and no it is not bread baking (although Elino and I are making a scrumptious focaccia these days). 

The skill I continue to need is “how to stay open & non-defensive during a difficult conversation.” I need this skill to maintain relationships with those I love, and to work toward change through long Zoom calls.

Staying open and non-defensive is not always easy for me. 

I continue to learn, practice, fail, & try again. 

I keep trying to change how I show up because I believe if I can be open and non-defensive, I will hear more, learn more, and be a part of bridging the divides in understanding that exist in our world & nation (instead of creating more of them).

I believe this is one of the most important skills for being in loving relationships, building a high-functioning, honest team, and moving toward racial, climate, & economic justice.

I am excited to share what I do and the resources I use to deepen this skill!

Start here with a video about why we usually shut down when the conversation starts to feel hard. And what you can do before you are in a tricky conversation so you have the ability to stay open when it gets heated.

Next week be on the lookout for part 2 with tips for how to stay non-defensive while you are in the middle of an important conversation, plus amazing resources I love, and a cheat sheet!

Rheanna SmithWhy we shut down when the conversation gets difficult & what to do about it
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