Skip to main content

Communication Breakdown: Staying in Touch When You Can’t Touch Anybody or Even Come Near Them

Probably our posts hourly should consist of only instructions to maintain social distancing, telling you not to even think of going near anyone if you feel sick, and to wash your hands. These are frightening times and every topic that is not about the pandemic seems frivolous in the face of the life and death matters that are facing so many.

That all said, here are some tips on communicating in these days of being forced to work at home and in physical isolation.

  • NO SALES CALLS!: You can call someone that buys things from you and you can genuinely ask how they are doing. If things come around to a sales question being appropriate, then get into it. Just do not start with that right now. People are sick, scared, their loved ones are sick and/or scared and folks are dying. Just because you would like to sell a shirt or a print does not make it ok to try and sell everyone a shirt or print right now.
  • Short Virtual Meetings: On line meetings should be short. Only a freakish few can get anything out of a zoom conference that goes on longer than 30 or maybe tops 45 minutes.
  • Email tone: Email conveys no tone. Here’s an example:
    • EMAIL CONVEYS NO TONE. possible responses
    • Why are you shouting at me!
    • Oh, you don’t know how to type Grandpa, do you.
    • Correct, email conveys no tone.
    • Why are you being sarcastic at a time like this.
    • Thanks for the lecture, ef you too.
    • Well, duh!
    • That’s a really helpful preface to this difficult discussion we are having. I read it very differently than what I was thinking before.

You get the point, without hearing someone’s voice you really can’t tell how someone meant something, and when  you are sending something out you don’t really know how it will be received. This can be a very helpful thing to remember, I’m lucky someone smarter than me told me this in the early days of the internet and it has served me well (when I remember it…)

  • Paranoia runs deep, into your life it will creep: Long periods of isolation and of being physically apart can breed suspicion and even paranoia. I am not a psychology researcher and cannot tell you exactly why, but things get squirrelly when folks are apart. I’ve had several long distance partnerships and physical distance can lead to turmoil unless you fight that tendency and also make yourself travel to have in person meetings periodically. Only option right now is to realize that dynamic is there and fight it. Communicate as best you can, and examine closely your fears and suspicions for this dynamic.
  • To Text or Not to Text: Texting isn’t for everyone. It really doesn’t work for long conversations unless you are 15 years old, and for some of us doesn’t work for more than two texts at a time if any. Youngest working among us  apparently 81% of them have to “summon courage” to make a phone call and so texting is paramount. People like me that are from the paleolithic era and also have giant hands, not so much. Everybody has to give a little on that one for us to get along.
  • Conference Calls: The conference call is the lowest form of human communication ever devised by humankind. Try and avoid them and when you can’t,  realize they are ok for disseminating information (though if it can be written up, why the call…) and terrible for discussions. For those unfamiliar with them and now forced to use this method, be ready for most of the meeting being full of “what,” “can you hear me,” “are you still there,” “sorry I was on mute,” “can somebody mute that has that coffee grinder on in the background,” etc.
  • Video Conference Calls: Helpful to some  over an audio call, for others of us having the video aspect is no better than if we owned a postage stamp with the participant’s face on it. If you must have such meetings, keep them short and to the point and with someone clearly running the show. Zoom seems to be the go to at the moment and it is fairly easy to use and either free or affordable. Alternatives include Google hangouts, GotoMeeting, Webex, Zoho Meeting which is an open source alternative, and Skype. Most have free trials and all of these are pretty affordable. Definitely check out Zoho which is less well-known.
  • Pick Up the Phone: Even though some of you have to summon courage to do it, pick up the phone and call people. I’m pretty immune to loneliness and pretty self-reliant, but I was surprised how much better I felt the other day when a business friend in California gave me a call. Reach out to your contacts and see how they are doing. Our friends and allies are our strength, keep those bonds in tact in these tough times.
  • Humor will Help, but Not at the Wrong Time: Our senses of humor are essential, but the person who’s mother was just taken to the hospital or worse doesn’t want to hear it.  The NY Times had a story about a family that had someone get the virus and all of a sudden when it was revealed then the TP jokes and hoax comments stopped among their circle of friends on Facebook.  Be aware of who you are communicating with, and if communicating in a group you don’t know, figure somebody is going through it right now and speak accordingly.

Stay positive out there my friends and stick together, each of our communities will help us get through this.



Leave a comment