Don’t Let Social Distancing Create More Relational Distance

I hadn’t heard the term “social distancing” until a couple of weeks ago. Now, social distancing is changing the way we work, live, and connect. If early-wave countries like South Korea and Singapore offer any guidance, this trend will be with us for months, perhaps the rest of the year.

This pandemic isn’t just a global disruption; for many it’s a very personal threat to their family’s health and financial wellness too. Put it all together and there’s a ton of anxiety in our collective lives and relationships.

As we adjust to this new (if temporary) normal, let’s not let social distancing create greater relational distancing. Whatever happens from a public health perspective, we’ll all do better if we stay connected.

Ask yourself: Who could benefit by hearing from you? Send a text. Call. You don’t have to spend an hour listening to someone describe the upheaval in their lives. Start with, “Hey, I’ve got about five minutes right now, but I wanted to check in and see how you’re doing.”

If you’re leading a video conference — or an in-person meeting for that matter — spend the first few minutes inviting people to summarize how they’re feeling in a sentence so they can be more present for the conversation. Don’t respond; say “thank you” and invite the next person to speak. The purpose is disclosure, not problem-solving.

In times of personal and social anxiety, empathy and listening are in short supply. You might be surprised how far these small steps can go in restoring connection. Not just for others—for you too.

And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out. Text. Call. Let the other person know, “If you’ve got five minutes, I could use a little listening right now.”

Let’s not let relational distance add to the personal and social challenges we’re facing. And if I can be of support, please let me know.

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