What’s happening right now in our world with COVID-19 is a massive change in the way we do things for everyone. Everyone has had to make changes and sacrifices in almost all facets of their lives.
With many of our in-person meetings and interactions being cancelled in favour of phone calls, emails, or video meetings, the chance for having someone misinterpret the meaning or tone of what you’re trying to say has increased dramatically.
Body language doesn’t exist when you’re communicating online. Even when you’re in a video conference/meeting, facial expressions and tone indicators can be hard to distinguish.
Having some of the signals that we use to communicate efficiently not available to us means that we need to be aware of the changes and differences with the new communication methods if we want to be understood.
Depending on the type of communication, you could adopt a style of being straight to the point and not using more words than are required to say what you’re trying to get across. The downside is that a complete lack of emotional cues can cause your meaning to get lost.
Personally, I’ve been told more than once that I seemed angry in an email because I was trying to be clear and to the point. While I don’t think that smilies and emoticons should be used in business, sometimes they might be needed.
If you’re communicating with someone that you don’t have an ongoing existing relationship with, any subtext could be interpreted incorrectly and your meaning could be lost.
Beyond being able to communicate efficiently and get not just your point but your tone across isn’t the only problem we’re having right now.
Humans are social and we need to interact with other people in person to maintain our mental health. Many people are feeling isolated because they’re unable to be near other people. Even when we do go out, we’re keeping our distance and in many cases wearing masks to cover our faces.
Much like our online interactions, these in person interactions have some emotional cues removed.
For many of us, there is also an overhanging sense of doom because we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. People are worried about getting sick or transferring the virus on to others and getting them sick.
Making a Bad Situation Worse
When you take the issues with communicating online and add the mental health and emotional problems with isolation and being in a global pandemic, sometimes things go wrong. People can act in a way that they normally wouldn’t and lash out inappropriately (sorry Jesse) or mistake the meaning of someone else’s words.
We all need to take a step back and make sure that your own behavior is what you want it to be as well as give others the benefit of the doubt when they need it.
COVID-19 is Here, But Do Your Best
Some of us are finding new ways to do what we can to communicate with others and maintain our mental health.
The photo that started me thinking about this was taken when I was out for one of my daily walks. I’d seen this lady visiting her husband in a care home often enough to know that it wasn’t a one time thing. This was their new normal.
The last thing I wanted to do was to intrude on them but I just had to share this with other people. It was just so sad, happy, heart swelling, cute, romantic, and inspirational all at once.
When I approached them the lady exclaimed to me proudly that this was “our FaceTime”, which oddly was the first thing that popped into my head when I first saw them.
During our conversation (at double the appropriate distance) I learned that they’ve been married for 59 years! Since they can’t be together in the same room, this is what they do because it’s the best way for them to visit. Not only had this couple made it through 59 years of marriage, but their love is still that strong.
I think if they can do what they’re doing to make their situation as best as they can, the rest of us can try our best as well.