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In the virtual world, there is no social distancing.

In his blog “The Emotional Revolution at work”,, Jonas Altman wrote”

“In our always-on, instantly gratifying, perpetually productive, and consumptive culture — there has been little room to reflect on our feelings. That is until we were forced to stop. Our thoughts and emotions won’t be kept under the hood any longer. The cultural lexicon is transforming right before our eyes as we let go of what was, and welcome what can be.”

You see, by default, when we are online, with the camera on we are already in a more intimate setting than what we were used to in our corporate world pre-COVID. As one of the three pillars of Emotional Relevance™ is Get Personal, this intimate setting of the online world make it easier a bit to do so. We start talking about some items we notice in the background which are most likely some personal items. As if the person we are Zooming with has invited us home and telling us about these personal items of theirs.

It’s a feeling. Be aware of that. Take advantage of that. Ask them about that picture behind them, or that baseball laying on their desk. Trigger that by being a bit more personal and vulnerable yourself. Have something personal behind you on the bookshelf or on your desk. Show off that mug you got as a birthday gift from your son that says:” Dad, I’m glad how we don’t have to say out loud that I’m your favorite child.” Triggering and sharing those personal items in that more intimate environment will influence your colleague, your customer, partner, to also share and this will directly lead to more openness and a more intimate level of trust. Which essentially this is what you are looking for. Forget about work for a second. I promise you it will feel just a tad weird at the beginning but will very quickly turn to a relaxed and natural feeling as these are our common human elements that are missing in the corporate world.

"When workers have to bury their emotions and leave parts of themselves at home it affects not only morale but performance."

Jonas Altman

I walked into this local coffee shop yesterday in Roswell Georgia. One of the only coffee shops around with dining-in option these days. Picture a cosey, two story late 1800’s family home that was converted into a coffee place, downtown main street, nestled between a thrift and an antique shop. Found a parking spot, walking up the gravel path, stepping onto the wooden steps leading to what once was a sort of a foyer. I am in a calm and super friendly mood. Everyone’s vibe is welcoming and relaxed. My mind wonders back in time as I am contemplating as to who lived in this house way back when. I am still walking, slowly, taking in all the historic ambiance of this gem. I am about 6 feet from the end of the 3.5 people line waiting to order (one guy kept running back and forth to the front of the line with “oh I forgot to sign” and then “I’m so sorry I just need a napkin” and “ha ha, me again, I need a key to the restroom”…..why don’t you stay in the restroom?!?!).

I am inching my way in line and realizing people who come and go in and out the store are taking an extra step away as they walk by me. The person in front of me is moving a bit out of the line as if to distant himself from me. What the hell??

All of a sudden, I feel a weird haunting feeling. Something between getting caught cheating in an exam by my 7th grade teacher and seeing a ghost. Chills went down my spine.

I look ahead and there it is. The woman standing by the unnecessary extras stand (sugar, half and half and other excessive items we don’t really need) stirring her coffee, staring me down. I could FEEL her eyes in my throat. It was scary. Without knowing what I have done, my instinct was to look down in shame, but I froze. I couldn’t move. This woman brought me down to a standstill with her looks. I look back right at her, squint a bit and tilting my face some as if asking her – WHAT???

I realized there is something there preventing me from really understanding what she is trying to tell me and this is when it hit me. I am not wearing a mask! I forgot it in my car. Of course, I ran to get it, everyone was thankful and went back to national threat level green.

This entire emotional escapade got me thinking about social distancing as I was driving back to my office for my next Zoom call that was about to start in about 20 minutes. Apparently, there are already researches proving that wearing a mask making us instinctively keep the recommended 6 feet distance. As if the mask signals us there is something going on and we need to stay away. Stay away from people. I realized I went to a coffee shop, to a social gathering place, to feel a bit welcome but everyone had this thing on their face reminding them to stay away. I am afraid that psychologically and emotionally this pandemic and the masks that came with it will instill in us the need to stay even further away from one another than we already are.

Got back to my office, 5 minutes to my next call. Set my coffee aside, turned my computer on, clicked on the link, mic is open, camera turns on automatically and I see my customer’s video being turned on as he connects to the session as well. He takes a glimpse at me and starts laughing. Puzzled, I kind of smile with one of those awkward – did I miss something kind of a smile. Then he says to me…..”you know you don’t need to wear a mask on a Zoom call right?”

Yes, I forgot to take it off. I was busy thinking on the drive back. I got used to it being there. Maybe in the back of my mind I was still afraid of that lady in the coffee shop. Whatever it was, I forgot.

And here we are. My customer in his bedroom, I am at my home office. Took my mask off. What a relief! What an emotional relief.

The mask is off so I took a deep breath, a sip from the coffee (thank god it was an ice coffee), looked at him through the USB camera, smile and say….”I guess there is no social distancing in the virtual world”.

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