Meeting Faces on Screens vs. Masks In-Person?
In thinking about returning to our pre-Corona conference rooms, I am not rushing back. I would rather work with faces on a screen than with masks in person. There is much that has been said around the challenges of Zoom meetings, including zoom fatigue, confidentiality, and power imbalances, but I would like to discuss a positive side: Connection and shared vulnerability.
One approach to our professional role is to keep our distance from our clients. The classic example would be the neutral role of the judge, impartial and distant. Some may choose to mediate with their clients in this same fashion, but not me. In what Jack Himmelstein and Gary Friedman (see a Guide To Divorce Mediation) coined “positive neutrality”, I see my neutral role best served through connection – not from behind the bench but together at the table (or on the screen). Particularly for divorcing individuals who are going through such an emotionally challenging time, trust of the professional is essential. In my mind, the best way to create trust is through connection and the best way to create connection is through shared vulnerability.
This would explain why I find myself more connected than ever to my clients, even though I might have only met them screen-to-screen. We are all dealing with this pandemic (and maybe other challenges) together. The traditional hierarchy of “I am the professional and you need my help” is washed away with “Yes, I am working from home.” “Yes that is my child in the background.” “Yes, we are all challenged during this time.” Our shared vulnerability through our shared humanness gives us an opportunity to connect with clients like never before. I find that sharing this vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness, and that the connection and feedback from my clients is palpable.
The use of sharing our vulnerability (with discretion, of course), is a powerful tool to help us connect and build trust with our clients, and even between our clients, and while it is readily experienced during this Corona existence, it should give us some thought on how to continue to bring our best professional selves into the conference room, even when we can return face to face.