Merrick, NY—Working at home has taken on a new dimension with video meetings. At this point, the only way many people are seeing their co-workers, customers, or industry colleagues is via screen.
A recent article from Ideas.TED.com took a look at making connections through somewhat impersonal video meetings. Organizational psychologist Adam Grant (left) explored this subject through a conversion with Jane Dutton, professor of business administration and psychology at the University of Michigan. Following is a short excerpt of their conversation to help you connect during your next video call, whether you know the participants in advance or not.
Adam: What advice do you have for managers, meeting leaders or anyone trying to think through building connections more carefully? Where should they start?
Jane: With these connecting practices, I find that people buy into them more if you explain the logic for why it’s being done. Explain that this is about trying to build better connective tissue so that our group will be better and more capable. When people understand that it’s in service of those kinds of things, they let their guard down and participate more fully.
Adam: What are some of your favorite questions — either ones you saw the students ask or you’ve been asking to open people up?
Jane: I’d suggest asking something like: “What did you do this week that you loved?” Ask a question that taps quickly into something that’s meaningful to people and conveys “I am genuinely interested, and I genuinely care.” You could ask “Tell me a highlight of your day” or “What’s gone well for you today?” Positive emotion opens up more possibilities for exploring some of the negative or the vulnerable pieces later on.
I saw an example of this in a Zoom meeting with the university development office last week. It started with having people go around the table and tell one story of a silver lining that happened this week. It was a wonderful invitation to share in a group where the people didn’t know each other. Talking about silver linings acknowledges that something negative has happened, but it also touches on the positive that you’ve made of it or that you’ve understood something positive coming out of it. I thought it was a beautiful opening invitation that seeded the ground for people to know each other better.