Communication in the era of social distancing

Our lives have been shaken for almost a year now by an invader that doesn’t seem to go away. Coronavirus changed a lot of things in our society and in our way to interact with each other. Three lockdowns, wearing face-covering, and a bunch of restrictions makes our interactions more difficult.

Still, communication is based on the link we bond with each other, the connection, the listening, the understanding. How to take up the challenge of better communication in a context of a global pandemic?

In this article, I suggest some tips for easier communications in the context of social distancing, face-covering, and work from home.

1. Nonverbal communication

A study from A. Mehrabian showed the importance of nonverbal communication. Communication is made of 55% gestures, 38% intonation, and 7% words. Nonverbal communication is even more important than the message itself.

Indeed, nonverbal communication is for example gestures, posture and body orientation, eye contact, or facial expressions. Nonverbal communication helps to bring more confidence, clarity, and interest to your message. However, how to manage this behind a screen or with a mask on?

  • Adopt positive communication: smile even under your mask. We can see and feel your smile with your eyes or the sound of your voice.
  • Give more importance to eye contact, especially when half of your face is covered by a mask. Learn to communicate more with your eyes and the expressions of your upper face (eyebrows).
  • Improve your intonation. In French, we tend to speak in a monotone way. Let’s get inspired with English or Spanish, where intonation is very important for understanding.

2. A contagious optimism

In the private sphere, social isolation impacts our mental health, leading many of us towards stress, anxiety, or even depression. The uncertainty of the situation we live in and the choice of words used by the media or government impact our mental health – “curfew”, “enemy”, “fight”, “war”. The use of this strong war vocabulary cultivates an atmosphere of anxiety and fear.

In such circumstances, we have seen the resilience and the extraordinary capacity for adaptation of men and women across the globe. Many companies found out new ways of doing things, reinvent themselves, embrace the digital and keep going despite many difficulties and restrictions. However, in all this, we need to also take care of the mental health of our collaborators. Let’s try to bring optimism to counteract the ambient fear. To do so, the choice of words in our internal communication is key. Let’s be contagious with our optimism and motivate others.

3. Accept uncertainty

Uncertainty is scary, it’s what causes us so much stress, when we can’t see the end of the tunnel, when we hope but only get disillusionments after disillusionments. We need to accept we can’t control everything and make the most of these difficult times. Be creative, reinvent yourself, start something new, be bold!

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