How to Connect in a Disconnected World
Where Are You on the Continuum of Connection?
The theme of 2020 has been disconnection. In a world where we are more connected than ever before we are seeing the true value of personal connection.
The term “Social Distancing” has us hyper-aware of anyone in our comfort bubble.
We are social creators by nature. These days even if we do see each other we don’t touch or get too close. This is affecting our psyche.
Physically distancing from an encounter with an old friend by keeping 6 feet away has a different energy than greeting them with a hug. It’s not ideal, but you can still feel their energy and get a sense of how they are doing emotionally. On the other hand, it can also feel strange and uncomfortable to stay outside and stand six feet apart when you have your close friend over.
The same goes for a business meeting. Even if going to meetings isn’t your idea of a good time, there is still an opportunity to connect and read the room.
Something is lost when we ZOOM. We talk to the camera or look at the person as two separate actions. There’s no real eye contact. We’re not getting that personal connection even though we can physically see each other.
Screen time is way up for all of us and the burnout is real.
Maybe it would be different if we had time to adjust to this new online way of life, but we were thrown into it. Creating a shock to our system. Like jumping in a cold pool, you warm up but it’s still cold.
Our society has become a frog in a pot. The heat has been turned up and we don’t realize we’re burning because it’s been so gradual, yet we are becoming boiled frogs.
This is not a sustainable way to live or communicate. We need to evaluate our connections
Are they stressful?
Are they causing us to cringe?
Are they fulfilling?
Are they bringing us joy?
Maybe you get anxious when you get a text from someone because it’s a stressed relationship so you don’t reply and it’s making the connection worse.
We have become seasoned in our faux communication skills. Like surfing the internet to connect or the big one…
Social media is a way to feel connected without any real effort to connect.
The most common ways we are connecting in today’s world of physical distancing are by:
Text & direct Messaging
Notice how social media is right in the center? It connects you in a broader way than text and direct messaging, but it’s not providing the personal connection you get with phone or video.
It's often a form of Faux-Communication.
It does however make you feel like you belong to something. Gives you a sense of possibility. Helps us feel less alone.
We all crave to be seen, heard and understood. We often express or act out because we’re not being seen, heard, or understood.
This causes us to feel alone and isolated in our experience. Which leads to being angry or negative online. Perhaps as a way to point out our own experience as being justified or to express our rightness in a situation.
This is also why we could all use a social media cleanse from time to time.
Taking a pause and asking yourself, “if I post or comment on this, how will it be perceived?”
If I have to question the outcome I usually just don’t post.
I find myself asking “do I need to have this conversation with this person or group? Or is it better for me to just know it for myself?” (And, do I need to press Publish on the post, or is it better to keep it to myself?)
It’s a good practice to remember that we are all feeling a little stressed and anxious and disconnected. It helps remind us to meet people where they’re at.
The thing with faux communication is we’re engaging thinking it’s what we want, but is it really what we need?
It creates a loop. You get in the habit of thinking it’s communication when it’s not.
So what are more effective ways to communicate?
Well, that’s tricky because we all communicate differently.
Generally, we understand that the most connecting text you receive feels very different from an in-person connection. However, knowing how to skillfully text can deepen a connection. I had a boyfriend who was fantastic at texting. He made me feel like we were connected and I was floating on air even though we couldn't see each other that often. I felt closer to him, than I did to one man I lived with for a while.
Let’s say you love to connect through text, but someone you love is not good at it. One word responses feel disengaging, making it hard to continue that connection in that form.
If you’re an introvert, then all this texting and emailing might be a huge sigh of relief to the in-person meetings that left you feeling awkward and sweaty.
I have a friend who was in a new relationship and was having a romantic text connection with her new partner. It was witty and fun, but when they got together it felt stale and forced. The relationship fizzled because they couldn’t create that in-person feeling of joy.
So untangling the connection we need is our job. Being aware of how the mode of communication affects the relationship.
This goes back to meeting people where they’re at. You have to know what you're getting and you have to know what type of connection you need.
However you feel best communicating it’s important to remember that not everything can be done over text, email, or phone. See my article The Message We All Fear for a client's inappropriate use of text (and all the mistakes I made, too).
But maybe you need less video so you can walk around and multi-task. I like to walk outside when I have to talk to an attorney or accountant (unless I have to refer to papers). A Mom trying to work while keeping her kids engaged in the new online learning programs might be better suited for a meeting via phone as opposed to sitting in a Zoom room.
Figuring out these communication styles helps you build boundaries. You must figure out what is best for you so you can sustain. And communication with yourself is at the top of that list.
This falls outside the connecting lines. It is the most challenging and the most valuable.
We substitute by connecting outward as a distraction to not face the voices and thought patterns in our heads.
2020 has stripped away our busy lives and left us to deal with ourselves.
It’s back to circling but not landing. If you land on your emotions then you have the responsibility to deal with them. But if you continue circling you can distract yourself with everything else going on around you, even as you run out of gas and are headed for a breakdown.
Communication with yourself is fundamental in establishing your boundaries. It’s an act of self-care. Giving yourself permission to understand and listen to your own needs.
If you’re not used to this it can feel like static because you’re not tuned into any frequency. You have to set your own channel instead of going to one of the presets already laid out for you.
Lots of feelings are there. And as you circle in your plane looking down on your feelings it might seem overwhelming, like you can’t handle it so best to keep flying.
To be quiet and to be okay with yourself you might not be able to dismiss those thoughts about yourself.
You know the personal hate speech about how unworthy you are that circles around your thoughts whenever you feel vulnerable.
This is hard.
What will you find when you’re quiet with yourself?
What are you afraid of?
Recently I had a client who told me she didn’t really know how she was feeling...ever! And she was embarrassed by that. I had her break it down the way you might with a kindergartener.
Here are the six basic emotions;
I helped her create Tiny Habits® around identifying her emotions in one of these six categories.
She would sit and think about how she felt and identify one of the six then celebrate the acknowledgment.
I told her once she could comfortably identify where she was in these six categories then we could work on the many nuances.
To say you're angry is great. Slightly annoyed at a slow loading website, very different spectrum of anger than rage at the car that just side-swiped you in traffic.
It’s also important to learn to accept your emotions and see the patterns of where you naturally tend to fall.
If you notice you’re feeling anxious but don’t know why then you naturally begin to look for a problem to be anxious about. But in reality, it might just be a sensation moving through your body and thoughts.
But if feeling anxious is your go-to state you might get online and start to notice things you are anxious about to justify the feeling. In turn, displacing this feeling in the wrong places instead of working through the hard internal thoughts behind it.
This week let’s create new Tiny Habits® around identifying your emotions.:
“After I get off social media I will sit still and identify my emotions and celebrate by saying YES!”
“Every time I receive a text I will pay attention to how my body feels, identify the feeling and celebrate with a smile.”
Just do them once a day and if you do them more that’s just extra credit.
Get used to Identifying your emotions. Learn to self-manage so you can learn to set boundaries right for you.
Connecting with your own communication needs will help you feel more connected to those around you.
Our world has changed and we are living through those changes one day at a time. It’s our responsibility to be clear with what works for us and those around us so we can move through these changes together.