Recently on my morning walk, I pondered about how I’ve been working from home and remotely for some years now and what I’ve been missing with regards to working with others “in real life”.
In the past, while working in office, I would say that I had some positive attributes that lent themselves well to working with others.
These would be that I’m a team player (it may have come from 20+ years in the Australian Navy both Permanent Force and Reserves), always willing to give something – or an idea – a go (to me the journey is more important and telling about you as a person than the actual outcome) and that I was a fairly good judge of character.
With this last point, it’s something I didn’t think about too much because I often intuited it. I’ve paid attention to this situation at hand and listened to my gut instinct. This has helped me out of some hairy situations in the past without actually realising it.
I guess when your hairs stand on end, your stomach drops, your breathing becomes erratic, your eyes are darting about you, that’s the body’s way of saying, “get out of there”.
One of the other attributes that is linked to this is that I seem to have this ability of being able to read a room. I like to sit back and watch others and then go with what my gut is telling me based on all the signals that are coming to me. Now, I don’t think about it when I’m doing it – it seems to come naturally. I have no idea why.
It sounds a bit woo woo I know.
I recall many times in work meetings, I would sit, observe and listen to others talking but also their mannerisms, their glances and although I didn’t understand the intention or the true nature of what was happening in the room, in these cases it would be my “feeling” that I would go with. Where one person may have thought the meeting was a success, my gut would be telling me “nope, it wasn’t! We’re going to have a problem with Joe. I think he’s ready to bail on this project.” And sure enough, some time later Joe would put in his resignation or be seconded to another project.
Situations like this happened to me constantly. I had this feelings where I seemed to be an intuit picking up the “vibes” of people and the rooms. I learned to understand why I had anger, jealousy or distrust of some people without realising why. It was my body’s way of telling me that their body language is not in alignment with their message or the situation that you’re both in at the moment.
In some way, working remotely now has given me the freedom of not being intuitive to others (after all, it’s quite exhausting).
Instead it’s given me an opportunity to stand apart at arm’s length and only be concerned with doing work and not worrying about what other’s intents are. But I do wonder if I’m losing something of that part of myself of being able to resonate and empathise with others in person?
That is, I’m not picking up the body language from the web camera anymore and the technology makes it difficult for us to get a reading of how we’re interacting with each other as well. (Also, the tech will only show you the interactions based on your relationship with that person). There are limited ways of picking up the vibes online and they seem to relate to how reachable a person is, how they want to be reached, their language and the consistent use and repetition of some words, turning off and on the audio or camera at certain times where there is possible tension…
So I think I’ve lost some of my intuition working online and having interactions with people through a screen especially in group situations.
It makes me wonder if through all this, we’re losing some of our distinct and lesser known softer skills of empathy, connection, intuition and instead, opting for an arms length approach because in our head, it’s safer.
We don’t have to deal with the ugly stuff of confronting people with their intentions, getting emotive about the situation playing out in front of our eyes or connecting with someone based on how you read their body language.