Meaningful interpersonal relationships with your customers, colleagues and business partners are important, more now than ever. In light of the significant challenges we are all facing, a personal human touch is much needed.

We are realizing that distance has a way of magnifying challenges in relationships. Not everyone is suited to the skill of working from home.  Research from Journal of Management and Marketing Research found that extroverts are more likely to experience isolation. Introverts may feel that their personal space is being invaded on a video call from their home. We all may feel significantly off-balance between family and work.

The answer to dealing with these challenges is really quite simple and really quite hard.  There will be times when your family comes first, and showing a more personal side of your life to customers and colleagues may turn out to be advantageous.

Effective communication is more than just attending the conference. It requires competencies that many of us have never considered essential to success.   Ask yourself these two questions. “How do you show up in the virtual world?” and “How do you virtually create rapport and trust?”

Here are a few strategies for nurturing your meaningful virtual relationships:

Be Likeable: This is the gateway to emotional connection with others. It sets the tone in any virtual meeting.  Are you perceived as having an approachable personality or an overly serious persona?

Imagine that you are hosting a party at your home. As a host, it is your responsibility to make others feel welcome. Think about the behaviors you demonstrate and apply the same mindset to your virtual meetings. Your approachability is a quality that will pave the way for rich dialogue.

Whether you are the host or attendee, smile as you speak. Make your voice more inviting.  When people are joining the call, inflect your voice to show that you are genuinely happy to be speaking with them.  Use people’s names.  When you mirror likeable behavior, people tend to respond in kind. Take control over the impressions you project.

Master the Art of Small TalkThink about small talk as a way of enriching your relationships and building influence.  Be genuinely curious, but not intrusive.  Invest a few minutes in asking questions before you engage in business talk.  If others talk about their children, take notes so you can refer back when you speak again as a way to honor the trust placed in you through this shared personal information.

In group settings, offer topics that everyone can relate to at the beginning of a meeting. Choose rapport-building openers that relate to the times. Demonstrating optimism, encouragement and empathy will be perceived as a breath of fresh air.

Here are some rapport-building openers:

  • How are you taking care of yourself and your family?
  • Have you started any creative projects at home?
  • How are you managing your new work space?
  • What changes have you made in your home to be more efficient?
  • What measures have you adopted for staying in touch?
  • What’s your favorite instant messaging platform? Are you using Slack or Zoom?
  • How are you entertaining yourself/kids?
  • Which shows have you recently binged on Netflix/Amazon/Hulu?

Warmth and understanding are the key components needed to reinforce the human touch that endears relationships. To quote Brene Brown, we can use this stressful time to “normalize the discomfort” by deepening our relationships.

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