Many people have expressed their distress at not being able to see close family and friends during the global pandemic and, indeed, this lack of contact has caused serious emotional and mental hardship to many people. Students missing being able to return home to visit family, grandparents not seeing their newly born grandchildren are just two examples of the overwhelming sense of loss being endured at this time. Those in business have worked hard to cultivate long-standing relationships with customers, clients, suppliers and others in the business community through a steady stream of in-person meetings, events and networking. Whilst these people may not be part of our inner circle, never coming to our homes or to family events, they’re a significant part of our orbit. Keeping in contact now via zoom meetings is a poor substitute for real face-to-face communication.
Then there are other, lesser relationships which are suffering, which in turn, causes subtle, yet significant impact, resulting in feelings of loneliness and separation. These are the people we’d typically recognise, nod and maybe exchange a handshake with when we meet. Being acknowledged and sharing a few words helps us feel accepted, included, important, a part of the group. But when all but essential business is cancelled and we’re only occasionally ‘allowed’ to go out, are then expected to keep our distance and not engage with others it means that we’re missing the more casual, yet important day-to-day relationships which reinforce our sense of community and belonging.
We all have similar scenarios
Think of the coffee or sandwich shop where they know our order, the shops and service providers where they remember little details and treat us well. I recall how I smiled when my usual supermarket cashier expressed surprise when there were no flowers in that week’s shopping!
Being recognised and acknowledged at a network meeting or awards dinner reinforces our connections with others, making us feel noticed, valued and less isolated. It matters little that these people are not friends whose names we hardly know. These relationships are part of a very different, yet important category. What about the arena events, the huge concerts and sporting dates, the networking expos where hundreds or maybe thousands of people congregate together with a shared collective enthusiasm, all cheering on their teams, singing the words and dancing to their favourite songs, meeting and exchanging potential business contacts. Again, that shared connection unites us with strangers who have similar interests. We may smile at each other, dance together, share anecdotes, stories and reminiscences for a time.
Connecting with others raises our spirits
We’re part of that club for a while, and it feels good, adding to the quality and satisfaction of our overall experience. Children, too, learn about relationships from face-to-face contact. Running up to a group of children who are playing, learning to share, take turns, lose, not get picked are all ways that children hone their abilities to communicate, tune in to facial cues and body language, discover what works and what doesn’t work. Yet today, many of our opportunities for friendly interaction have been put on indefinite hold, only to be replaced by the delivery driver who now calls on a regular basis, the take-away restaurant that’s familiar with our name and regular order, the pre-arranged zoom meeting. Many of these transactions are now undertaken virtually, with orders left on the doorstep and little human contact.
There have been some new friendships made during lockdown
Many people have started to take their daily exercise at a similar time, maybe going for a walk, run or bike ride. Meeting the same people can mean that a nod and polite greeting gradually evolves into a smile and perhaps a few words of conversation, but these exchanges are often made cautiously, from a distance. We may know very little about who we’re meeting, but the sense of having shared interests in walking or nature creates a special bond and ensures a friendly acknowledgement when we meet.
We may not have realised until now that a diversity of relationships is important in life
Not everyone we come into contact with has to be hugely relevant in every area of our life. Many are more whimsical, light connections, specific to certain interests and activities, but all nonetheless add sunshine and a feeling of belonging. A smile, a nod, a few words here or there; losing that is a huge blow to all of us. Let’s hope we see them again in the near future.
Susan Leigh MNCH (ACC)
Altrincham, Cheshire and South Manchester counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer and media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support. She’s author of 3 books, all on Amazon and with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life. To order a copy or for more information, help and free articles visit www.lifestyletherapy.net
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