Why distance is not the answer.

Five tips to stimulate social closeness in a time of physical distance.

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Image by Welcome to all and thank you for your visit ! ツ from Pixabay
Image by Welcome to all and thank you for your visit ! ツ from Pixabay

I hate this phrase “social distancing”. I feel like it’s exaggerating the worst pieces of a hyper-connected but shallow social reality. Even in an emergency like this COVID-19 outbreak, we can be physically separated without being socially distant. And that’s going to be more and more important as the situation escalates.

Crisis can bring out the worst in us, if we allow ourselves to fall into competition and scarcity thinking, or they can bring out the best in us – if we choose to be there for each other, in it together, valuing, supporting, and likely saving lives. 

I’m a social person. A fully fledged member of the extroverts club, being alone can often feel lonely and isolated to me. While there will be introverts the world over excited for some forced alone time, the truth is we are social creatures, we thrive on connection, and that will be tested over the coming weeks.

As offices, schools, and public places shut down, we’re going to be more socially disconnected than ever before. Here are some tips to spark more connection, and turn crisis into opportunity:

Reach out. We’re in a rare place when almost everyone in the world has a little more time on their hands, and might be feeling lonely and anxious. Whatever the medium, reach out to some people you care about, ask them how they’re feeling, and see what happens.

Use video. Whether it’s a personal call or a work meeting, seeing others’ facial expressions and body language is so much more meaningful than talking to a blank screen – and makes for more effective collaboration.

Incorporate inclusion moments into calls. Along with any safety or quality moments at the start of a work call, spend some time on a more personal get-to-know-you question to stimulate deeper connections. 

Take social meetings online. Between all the messaging platforms group video calls are easier than ever, and they don’t need to be reserved for work. If you’re staying indoors, take your wine night, book club, lean in circle, or other gathering online. Physical distance, social closeness.

Don’t default to TV. I love a Netflix binge as much as the next person, but it doesn’t make for great connection in a time of need. Swap some TV time with board games, conversation starters, cooking, even listening to an audiobook.  

As I’m sure you’ve read, all of us can take simple steps to help combat the spread and impact those more at risk – washing our hands regularly, avoiding touching our faces, staying home when sick, making practical purchasing decisions – and leaving the supply of surgical masks for health care professionals. But even more important are steps to prioritize our wellbeing and mental health. Build healthy habits around sleep, food, movement, hydration, and stress management (which includes connecting with other humans!) to boost your immune system and set your body and mind up to resist illness.

I’ll leave you with the wonderful words of Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, from his beautiful opinion piece earlier in the week:

“Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise…

…Let’s stay safe. And let’s draw one another closer in a way that we’ve never done before.”

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky

Stay well, and stay human out there.

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