by RJ Taylor
How is it possible to make friends if we can’t meet?
How can we really get to know people well enough over virtual settings?
What does it take to develop meaningful relationships virtually?
Even in a virtual space, we can choose to be more human! We can not allow a virtual meeting window to separate people so much that we lost our humanity. We have to do everything possible to keep proving our humanity to each other.
Be seen. Literally. How is the lighting in your room? Can your facial expressions be easily seen? What’s that weird “art” piece behind you? Log in to the virtual room early. Be there to greet the person you are hosting. Start with a smile.
Be heard. Again, literally. Test your internet connection before the meeting starts and toss in some headphones! We know connection is built through deep listening, and if the other folks can’t hear you, well you don’t have much of a chance.
Be active. Body language is still a thing. Honestly, it’s even MORE of a thing. Lean in. Wave. High five your new friend through the camera. Laying on the couch with your laptop on your lap while only your forehead is in the picture does not communicate a desire to connect.
Be curious. Do your homework. Check out their social media accounts, review their professional profile, use information from interest forms, registration forms, and look for mutual connections. Come prepared with specific questions about things that are important to them.
Be known. Choose authenticity and vulnerability first. Choose to dive deeper. Instead of asking “How are you?” try out something like “Tell me about your…” Great questions lead to great conversations. As importantly, share about you. Let them know what is real in your life right now. You have to work extra hard to build real emotional connection when there’s a camera and a wifi connection between you.
Be extra. Actively facilitating the room you are hosting is even more important in a virtual setting. Awkward moments are amplified. Convey presence. Close all of your tabs, turn on do not disturb, be present. “For some people right now, you ONLY exist in an occasional box inside their computer screen. We have to be extra. Fill it with all of you. Make the little choices to be extra in your virtual presence.”
Be personal. Even though we are in a virtual environment, we are still BUILDING real human relationships. We are not INTERVIEWING for virtual robot relationships. Don’t make the conversation stiff. No one will pass the interview (you or them) if that’s the vibe. Let some of your fun show. Let some of your weird show.
Be graceful. Virtual connections can feel different. Did you know Apple’s Facetime feature is only 10 years old? And let’s be honest, most of us didn’t even think about trying it out because the quality was horrible! This is still a new form of connection. Let’s have fun learning together.
Be action-oriented. What’s the next step? When will you connect again? Can you set up a next meeting? Relationships are built over time, and time requires planning and forethought.
Be intentional. Send a message 30 minutes before letting them know you are excited to connect. Plan a follow-up message with a clear next step. Get really good at “Thanks for that conversation! It made my day!” emails and texts.
*Disclaimer – These 10 practical tips actually aren’t all that special to virtual connections… Social Excellence works ALL THE TIME! Whether someone has access to a Facetime/Zoom compatible device, gives you a good ol’ fashioned phone call, or asks meet over coffee at the local spot – we can upgrade all of our meaning connections by following the guide above.