Collaborating Virtually at Work and School

Working or learning virtually can be a challenge especially if reading social cues and managing your communication is a challenge.  We have the technology to create and support virtual teams, but collaborating remotely requires special skills.

These tips can help build social and communication skills in a virtual setting: 

  1. Consider who is Your Audience- Think about what you know about the people in each meeting or interactions, what motivates them? What is their history with you? What are their past choices and what does that tell you about how they will react to a situation? Then if need be, pause as you adapt your communication to the audience and consider the situation and their personality.
  2. Use Video Conferencing to Watch for Social Cues- Whenever possible, use a visual medium so you can see the other person’s nonverbal signals and interpret how they feel. Reading body language and facial expressions will help you gauge how to react to the other person, identify how they are feeling and tailor your communications more effectively. Body Language can change the meaning of a simple phrase, so watch the speaker for head nods (agreement), crossed arms (defensiveness), smirking (can mean they agree and are amused or disagree and are nodding politely), and a sigh (frustration).
  3. Read the energy of the other person- Energy tells you so much about another person’s mood. People’s voice, what they say, their body language can alert you to their energy. Consider the energy of the person you are speaking to and ask yourself what does this tell you about their mood? What does that mean about your conversation and how can you adapt your approach to match their energy? The pace of the person’s language can tell you so much about their energy.
  4. Pay Attention to Context- Context is the situation, the environment, the mood, the circumstances and what has been going on. Interpreting the context can help you adjust your message to the audience you are speaking to​ and to remember their thoughts and feelings and how that impacts the conversation.
  5. Read Between the Lines- As you communicate with co-workers and friends from a distance, the way something is said can change the meaning so it is important to read between the lines. Drawn out words change the meaning of a sentence, for instance, a stress on the adjective i.e., “that is SOO nice”, changes the meaning from positive to a negative, snarky comment. Intense verb adjectives and adverbs, such love, hate, and always can be signs of sarcasm.  Reading between the lines can help translate what the person means, allowing you to make a choice on how to respond.

Change can be overwhelming. Rather than worrying about everything at once, a good approach is to pick one mission, one thing to work on and then to focus on that goal.  What you focus on will grow and develop and will help you manage your social relationships virtually.

Top 10 Social Etiquette Faux-Pas During a Pandemic

We’re all figuring this out, yet some of us have adapted to the rules of Pandemic Protection faster and better than others. This is a weird new world, yet community and civility should not be tossed out with our disposable masks!

Some people wear masks driving alone in cars, while others claim they “don’t believe in them.” COVID is real, and its effects will last a long time. As a social skills coach, I see all types of behavior as we adjust to this mask-wearing, distancing new normal.

Here are my top observations of how to inadequately protect yourself and others.  Next time you brave a store trip or visit with a neighbor, see if you recognize yourself in these personnas.

Top 10 Etiquette Faux-Pas During a Pandemic:

  1. Bubble-Buster – These people speed up to you as if participants in The Amazing Race.  Simply turn if they are approaching and moving past you quickly, but if they are lingering, take the high road and move out of the way. When you are in a store, don’t approach someone else in the aisle, just move to the next aisle. When waiting in line, stay 6 feet apart and don’t encroach on others.
  2. Close Talker – They probably were close talkers as toddlers, but why can’t they just get it that you can’t do this now? A friendly, “do you need a mask?” will hopefully signal to them that they need to cover up their droplets. Should that not suffice, be sure to step back, turn your head and awkwardly adjust your mask in hopes they receive the message. If not, run.
  3. Squeezer – As if they have nothing better to do, these folks touch every melon in the grocery store! Please don’t pick up every can, bag and freezer item. You can’t pick things up to read labels right now. I don’t want to touch what you’ve just touched – who knows where you’ve been!
  4. Rule Police – Don’t yell out in the crowded produce area, “6 feet apart!” You didn’t make the rules, so don’t feel the need to enforce them. Let the signs and notices do that.
  5. Can’t be bothered – For heaven’s sake, just wear the mask in public! Have a mask at the ready to speak to someone at a drive up window or to say hello. Buy fresh masks and hand them to those who don’t have one. Yes, this may make them feel as if you are asserting your superiority, but in fact, you are the smart one!
  6. Confused – If you’re not sure of the appropriate etiquette, watch what others do and mirror it. Of course, with the caveat that you aren’t repeating these faux-pas!
  7. Hugger – “I’m a hugger and I can’t help it!” I hear you. I feel the same way, but please don’t hug or touch other people, even an elbow touch on an arm right now is jarring. Yes, it stinks, but it’s necessary.
  8. Pontificator – These guys expound on COVID details in excruciating detail. People are stressed, don’t start big lectures with every acquaintance. Some of us are trying to compartmentalize our fears so we can assume some form of normalcy.
  9. Hoarder – You heard of them, you may even know one or two. As if graduates of Defcon training, these sneaky people take all the toilet paper, wipes and sanitizers before the 2-limit rule was implemented. Don’t take all the supplies left on a shelf, your neighbors are watching and they will be angry because heck, they need toilet paper too!  And, it’s just plain not nice!
  10. Digital Non-native – These people don’t check their emails, rarely text and now are over-whelmed with virtual meetings. We get it, everything and everyone is online now, but please figure out how to join a Zoom meeting or provide a signature electronically. This is not going away.

There isn’t one person on the planet who wishes this pandemic was here to stay. I am tired of it. You are sick of it. And those who lost someone to it especially grieve. Let’s do the best we can to protect ourselves and others so this nightmare can be put to rest.

What Will the Fall Be Like?

Now is the time for parents to contemplate what fall will look like. None of us knows what to expect, but we can’t just adopt a wait-and-see attitude. Measures should be put into place this summer in preparation for a successful school year.

As a social skills coach, I suggest that parents review the social struggles that were most prevalent last year. Did your daughter make friends easily or did she eat alone at lunch? Now would be a good time to ask her if there were people she would like to get to know better. Are there clubs, sports, events etc. that interest her? Find out if enrollment is starting for the fall for the programs she likes. She can ask a friend to join, or do it alone with the plan of making new friends, maybe even from another town. Send a message to the guidance counselor or new teacher and explain her interest in making new friends. She isn’t the first to voice this concern.

If school work was an issue because of executive functioning challenges or attentional issues, reach out to the school administration and ask if you can turn things in differently, or later.

Video interactions are a great way to “play” with others, and older kids can go to the park, etc. with the understanding of distancing.

Now is also the time to create plans and infrastructure around the use of electronics as it is probable that remote learning will be here to stay.

Learn more about how to thrive during the pandemic

 

3 Tips to Building Empathy During a Social Crisis

COVID Resource – Are we becoming cruel and self-centered or just oblivious?

exc-5b8854d070a6ad611162c513

Let’s face it, we are in a social crisis. Socially distancing is making us exhausted and LONELY. What’s more, on a whole, we are becoming “less nice. Bullying, cruelty and insensitivity may actually be on the rise as we shelter behind our screens. We all witness how cruelty and callousness divides a community – even if it is unintentional. Where we had seen a child burst into tears, or innately sense a rebuff, social distancing has taken away these vital, often non-verbal social exchanges.

Empathy is showing compassion, understanding another person’s experience, and walking in someone else’s shoes.  Empathetic children are less likely to bully others. The ability to show empathy is a life skill- if someone in your office does not receive a promotion you are expected to read the room and hold back your joy that you were promoted, if someone’s pet passes away you are expected to express sorrow- and when someone is in distress to ignore that distress does not win friends or make you a prospect for future management roles.

Environment, genetics, social and cultural factors influence our ability to feel empathy.

Some children due to their own brain-based challenges do not read social cues, facial expressions and emotions, they don’t have the perspective or the self-awareness to see how others interpret their actions and behaviors.  These children, for whatever reason, do not understand how they come across.  Their intentions are good, but they don’t really know how to tune in and “walk in the other person’s shoes.”

Teaching empathy must involve not only fostering a community to promote empathy and kindness but also coaching children individually to help guide them toward greater understanding of what kind and empathetic behavior looks like by modeling empathy and reinforcing it with all actions and messages children hear so they can learn to “walk in someone else’s shoes.”

3 Tips to Teach Empathy to Your Child

  • Point out emotions and bring attention at the right time to the emotional experience of others and have conversations with your child about another person’s experience. In the minivan or on the go, continue to ask him questions when his conversations present as forgetting other people’s feelings. For example, What do you think is going on in your friend’s life? What did you notice about her reaction to the situation?
  • Collaboratively talk about your child’s behavior when he is rude or lacks empathy and ask him to interpret how his behavior made you feel. Ask your child, How do you think I feel when you correct me? What did you mean to do?
  • Guide children to look at what another person’s situation or point of view may be – rather than preaching to care about someone, help your child step into the shoes of his peer and ask your child questions to help him reflect on other people’s state of mind. What do other people feel? What is the reaction to their behavior? What did the other people’s facial expressions tell them about their feelings?

Some children naturally begin to demonstrate empathy as early as 12 months old; others struggle for whatever reason and may demonstrate rude and hurtful behavior. But the ability to understand other people’s emotions and respond with kindness is a life skill essential to help children be part of any group throughout their lives.

Read more about empathy

Learn more about the oblivious kid in the 2020 Parenting Palooza

 

 

Virtual Playdates: Can They Really Help Build Social Skills?

Who knew playing at the playground, running on the soccer field or summer camp would be taken for granted?

Adults have an easier time staying connected to friends, but kids need to keep in touch just as much, if not more than we do.

There are many ways to keep your young one social and active with friends while on lockdown. They can continue to build on the social skills strategies that you’ve been building on over the last several months.

Ways to make virtual playdate a success

  1. Determine the social struggle – Ask yourself what your child tends to struggle with during play, such as joining in, sharing, managing emotions, becoming overly excited with a friend, being too bossy, or being too grumpy.
  2. Collaborate on the plan – Make it clear to your child that her mission for the virtual playdate is to practice that skill. For example, work on how your child talks with other children, review what you might say and what to do, role-play, and practice how a conversation might go if done virtually. Practice with family members first, and then when it comes time, help her join in with her friends.
  3. Pick the right playmate – Temperament of the playmate is important when practicing social behaviors.  A virtual environment can be more difficult than an in-person playdate, and to . Compatibility does not necessarily mean putting two like-minded children together. For example, two overly bossy, rule-oriented children might argue and a domineering child might overshadow a shy child.
  4. Choose the activities – Think about what games and activities might work well in a virtual environment in an effort to stay connected. Younger kids may not have the vocabulary or the ability to hold a long conversation, but interactive activities can be just the right mix of fun and entertainment.

Games and Activities for virtual playdates –

  • Scavenger hunt – once online,  agree on a list of things they can hunt for while on a daily walk with their parents or siblings. Right now, there are many neighborhoods putting rainbows, bears, and other creative items in their windows. Have them find and take a picture of someone’s sidewalk chalk art, hunt for a certain type of leaf or bug or count how many butterflies cross their path. The options are endless. When the hunt is over, the kids can regroup and compare notes on their next interactive virtual playdate.
  • HedBanz, Pictionary or Charades – These can easily be played virtually.
  • Storybooks – Younger kids can take turns reading to a friend. Kids can talk about characters, plot and why it’s a favorite.
  • Crafts – Set up your virtual playdate at the dining room table with supplies. Kids can talk and draw together. Have a show and tell at the end of the playdate.
  • Pen pals –  How fun would it be to stay connected by sending a friend a handwritten letter? Make it fun by including a drawing or adding one of your favorite stickers to share.

Debriefs are important

Children learn by reflecting on what they are doing and how it impacts others. The more you engage with you child, in a nonjudgmental way after the playdate is over, the better. Chat about what they did well and celebrate their effort. I heard you tell Julie what to do and what game to play. What do you think Julie felt when you told her what to choose? What choices did Julie get to make? What choices did you get to make? Let’s look at whether or not that was fair together. Then also ask your child what they struggled with and make a plan and practice for the future.

Kids can learn that even though they have to distance themselves right now, they don’t have to forget about the ties they have to their friends.

Read more about Social Skills development

and COVID resources

When Your Tween Acts Up During Lockdown

My stuck-at-home 11-year-old spends her off-school hours on the online game platform Roblox. As screen time goes, it’s a pretty safe, kid-friendly and creative option, since with parental controls I’m able to lock down her privacy (that means no chats, ever).

But she resists screen time limits, argues about getting off Roblox to do chores and tries to push her bedtime later every night. She is worried about not being able to go back to sleep-away camp this summer. And annoyed that she can only FaceTime her friends, instead of seeing them in real life.

I get it. Her reaction is understandable, considering the fraught times we are living in.

But when she gets disrespectful, I can’t go to my usual set of consequences like threatening that she won’t be allowed to attend a friend’s birthday party, or being sent to her room (which is now her sanctuary). All the usual punishments are off the table when everyone is already essentially grounded.

Following are some experts’ suggestions on how to handle conflicts with tweens during lockdown.

Read more from Caroline in The New York Times

Screen Time & COVID-19: How to Support Teens with ADHD

Connecting with others is essential, and that is especially true for teenagers with ADHD during this unprecedented COVID-19 quarantine. Most teenagers with ADHD, however, spend too much time on electronics, so it is necessary—now more than ever—for parents to engage them in collaborative discussions that lay out expectations.

You can use this time—when most of the rules about screen-time limits and appropriate hours for waking and sleeping have gone out the window—to help your teenager practice self-regulation. Soon they will be out on their own, with no parental limits. Learning to coauthor their own limits will help them in the not-too-distant college environment.

Read more at CHADD

5 Ways To Maintain Your Child’s Social Skills During COVID19

Due to COVID-19, government and medical professionals are urging us to stay physically distant and avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people. Although parents are being asked to promote physical distance outside of the family, helping children develop social skills is still possible. As busy people, we don’t always make the time to connect with others in our immediate households—social distancing is the perfect time to do this, no?

Social skills are life skills, and connection to others is essential to mental and physical health. Helping children feel connection is possible, even without playdates and when school is out of session.

Follow these 5 tried-and-true methods of engaging with your family and helping children learn essential social skills, without an electronic device:

Read more in Mind Body Green

Homeschooling During COVID-19

Parents did not choose to homeschool. Many of us are working from home for the first time and some of us have lost jobs—and now with this heightened sense of anxiety, we are expected to teach our children?

You’ve prepared for this challenge by purchasing planning calendars, organizing the workspace, and successfully logging onto Zoom and installing a kid-friendly backdrop. Unfortunately, your child is not interested in this type of schooling. Your gut tells you that he is under pressure, in pain, and that no amount of cajoling is going to help—he seems to be struggling and can’t manage the different classes, worksheet packets and endless stream of tests and quizzes that are being thrown at him from every direction. “I don’t want to do it anymore. Can’t we just go back to school like normal?” Your heart breaks hearing these words, but that’s not in our immediate future.

Is There a Way Out of This Battle?

Read More in Today Parenting

 

I respect your privacy

X