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I’ve been reading a lot online and in various articles and books lately about the balance of online and offline relationships, as well as the greater understanding of the actual concerns and lives of people. I know it sounds broad and perhaps a bit vague, but let me provide some clarification and get to what I’m thinking.
Earlier, Tac Anderson wrote a post about the value of actually getting out from behind the desk and connecting with people. I see a couple of energies at work here.
One is looking beyond a job title or a contact/business card and seeing another human being. This can be a real challenge as you fly through your day. Received a snippy e-mail? Maybe the sender didn’t sleep well last night and doesn’t feel very ‘warm and fuzzy’ this morning. Looking for a better way to really get involved in a project meeting? Listen without simultaneously working out a reply or rejoinder to the discussion. Unable to get in touch with a vital contact regarding your project? Maybe they’re offline spending some time with their family or, much worse, home sick. Work harder at seeing and understanding others’ motivations, challenges, strengths and foibles.
I have a good friend who greets me with the question, “May I ask a personal question?” I don’t think very long about my positive reply as I know him so well, but his personal question is, “How are you, really?”….and he really wants to know. A high-level, “Oh, I’m OK…” may not work well with him, as he pays attention to body language, tone of voice, and remembers the “arc of my life” from meeting to meeting. He works at seeing me as a person. Once he feels that he understands my being at this time, he moves to what we’re working on or even how my cats are. Pay attention to people and the business part begins to take on a strong, trust-oriented focus. It can get things done well and quickly, but there needs to be some up-front investment.
The other is our propensity to get very engaged in “the next message”, whether it is a mail, a Tweet, a post, a comment, or some other (especially) electronic stimulation. This tends to keep us ‘face front’ into our screen of choice, following the e-mail thread or Tweet-stream and responding in a somewhat obsessive manner as quickly as we can…we want to stay current, stay on top of the moment. Looking up at the others around us (the mail can many times be with the person in the office/cubicle two doors down…) takes us away from the attention-suck of the stream, which unnerves us a bit. In my case, it can mean that I go an entire day, only arising from my office chair for get lunch and go home (if I’m lucky enough to have no meetings that day). Not healthy or very good for my back.
How to balance the online business and professional needs is a question that can only be answered by your particular circumstance. Since we really are unique individuals, no “one-size-fits-most” solution is offered here. Really, just a call to awareness of your fellow humans, a call to awareness of the “Now”-moment, and a chance to have others mean more to each other.