Quality in online relations

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“all real life is meeting” (M. Buber)

Working from home. We have been working from home for some time now, online meetings, contact via email. For some this is a curse, for others a blessing. I know clients that feel OK with it; no colleagues (especially bosses) that come to ‘bother’ you or that make you feel uncomfortable. You can literally shield yourself from others. For others it is difficult, they thrive through many and divers contacts. Psychology Today however also warns us not to conclude that extraverted people are the ones most affected. It is the more introverted that need more attention in this situation. By and large, however, online working seems to be functioning reasonably well. Many organisations say that when this crisis is over, they will keep on online working. A positive note is that we are now are more attentive to the reasons for getting together. When we call teams in for ‘life’ meetings, we consider qualitative options and possibilities where before we just sat together.

Involvement. In the meantime, there are also people who are worried, who say that it seems like relations are harder to start and maintain. Teachers state that the contacts with students are fizzling out, that they sense a lessening involvement. The same is being mentioned in organisations, managing relations and contacts is not as self-evident as it was. It seems we are becoming more aware of the quality of our relations. What is going on there?

Relations. What I notice is that we are becoming aware of the concept of relations now that this has come under pressure through these circumstances. What we took for granted (but what anyway was not always this clear) now becomes conscious and visible. A good relation brings something extra to all parties. A relationship says something about our involvement with each other. I know that in many organisations you may come across as a ‘softie’ when you mention this, it is hard to bring this to attention. Still, there are simple ways of addressing this in your own online contacts.

Online-relation quality

Online pressure. I notice how many people still have to find their way into online relations. The uncomfortableness and “this is what it is” create pressure. It makes it hard to complain, even if you feel suppressed by it, as we are all affected by it. Yet it is OK to mention it, to ask, to make a joke, to bring some air to your discomfort.

Personal. Bring the personal touch back into the relation. Do you still have informal chats online? My experience says we do not. The screen does not invite us to do so, it is too direct, too fast. Yet it is good to do it anyway, this informal chat. Ask the other about the things you see in the screen, a background, an object on the table, what they did right before your conversation. Perhaps you can expand your contact to other media.

Experience. Do you not like seeing yourself onscreen? Be assured, most of us do not. And there are many other things we do not like onscreen. Mentioning what you feel, and experience helps you to relax more behind your computer. It also provides for possibilities to open up to things that you do enjoy and find to be important.

Breaks. Isn’t it strange, how tiresome it is to only deal with faces and voices, sometimes only voices even? Where before you were ‘listening’ with your whole body, now only your brain is active. Before there was the coffee machine, now it goes on and on. It gives you headaches.  Be kind to yourself, take small breaks and some fresh air if possible.

Curious.  Do you first and foremost think about your own responsibilities and demands? That is normal, that is what you and all of us sense first of all. But you also remember how it feels when someone else takes an interest in you. You could take that as a lead for your next contact; be curious about the other. It may feel a bit uncomfortable at first.

New relations. Working online brings a lot of issues, but it also provides us with the opportunities to meet more people. It is now pretty normal to be reaching out online, so you can also see this as a way of creating more relations.


Do you want to react or discuss this subject? Contact me at wim@currents.eu

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1 Reactie

  1. Maarten

    Nice and practical Wim, in every circumstance we have a choice to explore towards reducing stress and discomfort. Helpfull tips!


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