Sometimes the world seems to be in chaos. This is certainly one of those times. Everything is upside down all because of an organism, so small, we can’t see it without a microscope. 

A year ago, I never would have imagined what I am seeing today. Looking around, you begin to realize the significant impact the virus has had on the planet. It has caused us to change the way we live our personal lives and the way business is conducted. 

In most U.S. states and countries around the world, we’re asked to wear face masks in public. We’re drowning in local mandates and hand sanitizer. We are asked to practice social distancing. We are told to stay a safe distance away from others. It’s this safe distance that worries me most. Staying away from others is not in our nature, but it does seem to be the best approach to slow down the spread of this virus. How can distancing be called social?

How does this concept affect our lives? The dilemma, for most, is that social distancing is the opposite of our greatest need: CONNECTION. If you have been following my blog over the last few years, you know that the core of everything I write about is connection. Connection is the link between people, and is based on sharing ideas, feelings and fears. Connection is the glue that binds people and things together.

Happiness and well-being are by products of connection in our personal and professional lives. All businesses have people at its core. After all, the business we are all in is the people business and the foundation of the people business is connection. Connection is founded on trust and forged over time, one promise at a time. With connection, you can achieve peace, health and wealth. Connection is the foundation of all good and solid relationships.

Since connection brings happiness and success, disconnection brings loneliness and turmoil.  I believe we now live in a largely disconnected world that has been made more disconnected by this virus and our reaction to it. Let me explain.

It’s hard to stay connected to others when we feel we must blame someone for our situation. In the case of this virus, we blame everybody from other countries to our own government. Since no one wants to take responsibility, we distance ourselves.

In most societies, people move closer to each other when they want to connect and farther apart when there is fear or distrust. The scientists tell us that transmission of the virus is increased the closer we are to those who are infected, so we stay away. How far? Six feet or more. With that in mind, our social distancing says, “I’m afraid of you and I don’t trust you.” The truth is, we are saying, “Stay away or we could make each other sick.” Our heart is saying connect, but our fear is telling us to distance ourselves so connection doesn’t occur.

In most places we go we are asked to wear a mask. It is the right thing to do, no doubt, but what message does the mask send? Think about what kind of people wear masks. Yes, doctors and nurses, but so do the thieves and criminals who come to do you harm. The mask says, “I don’t want you to know who I am.” Distancing and mask wearing send the same message and it’s not one of connection.

I’ve found that one of the most powerful connection mechanisms is the smile. When I travel internationally I may not speak the local language but I can send my friendly intentions with a smile. The smile translates well, no matter where you are. But what about the smile hidden behind a mask and from 6 feet away. It just doesn’t work, does it?

By choosing to isolate, to stay away, to social distance, we have chosen to disconnect. Being disconnected too long is dangerous. Disconnection breeds misunderstanding and misunderstanding leads to conflict.

What can we do? We need to understand the importance of connection and realize in tough times many don’t know what to do, so they do nothing.  Don’t be one of those people. Take the initiative and find ways to bridge the gap. Make a list of all your relatives, friends and even customers, and then call, email or send a hand written letter. Maybe all three. Acknowledge the tough situation and tell them how important they are to you. Work together to find ways to stay connected. It’s better to be a great listener than an overpowering talker. Friends listen, politicians talk.  Be a friend. 

This is not a time to spend all day worrying. It is however, a time to reconnect with those we care about while keeping their safety and ours the first priority. We will get through this by following the scientifically sound guidelines we’ve been given, but we can not afford to lose our connections on the way.  Find a way to reach out.  

Stay connected and be safe.

Steve Haberly

The Covid Disconnect

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