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Etiquette Doesn’t Change Whether Online or In Person

Updated: Oct 15, 2020

During these days of self-quarantine and social distancing, many individuals and companies have gotten creative in their ways of staying ‘in touch’. We are holding client meetings and/or trainings via Zoom, Skype or other virtual sites. Friends and family members are ‘getting together’ for virtual happy hours (including quantinis) and other types of gatherings online. Because it is so vitally important for all of us humans to stay in communication, I, for one, am very excited about this ‘new for me’-found creative way for being able to not only chat, but actually see the people I love.

Being virtual brings out the best of some of us. Others, well, not so much. Women I have spoken with have told me stories that made me decide to write this month’s blog. Most women I know, including me, find that these virtual opportunities have given me the motivation to get dressed, get out of my workout clothes and PJs into everyday clothes. It may be jeans and a tee shirt or more formal attire, depending on the circumstance. And, I have taken these chances to put on make-up.

Others have been ‘caught’ in difficult if not indecent situations. Recently, a colleague shared, during one training, consisting of 11 men and women, because the group had been sitting for several hours, the facilitator requested everyone to stand up and move around for an organized respite. The next day one of the participants stated on the call that she didn’t stand up because she had her pajama bottoms on. She had dressed in a nice top and makeup, but disregarded her attire, down there. WHOOPS!

I’ve heard comments from others, and noticed myself, that whether it’s a virtual networking group, or smaller, more intimate conversation, sometimes etiquette is forgotten.

One common practice that easily trips us up during these virtual times, is interrupting. Sometimes there is a pause or delay and you may not realize that you and someone else have started to talk at the same time. Certainly understandable and, in fact, it has happened to me. What is not acceptable is to just keep going as though you really are the only one in the room. While you physically are separate, your comments are not. If you were in a conference room, in physical proximity to others, you would wait for one person to complete his or her thought and then add yours. Why would it be any different just because of the virtuality of the circumstance? If you find yourself in this situation, I would suggest reverting to recalling your manners and say, “I’m sorry. Please go ahead” and then follow their comments with yours.

Here are a few helpful reminders:

• Find a quiet place (close the door; turn off music; no barking dogs, crying babies, purrfectly adorable kitty)

• Turn off your cell phone (or place on vibrate)

• Don’t eat, drink or chew gum

• Use the ‘mute’ function except when you are the focused speaker

• Stand (if possible) [this helps your tone of voice and contributes to having a positive energy)

• Use proper English (replace “yeah” with yes; “uh-uh” with no)

• Avoid foul language

Additionally, if you are the facilitator, perhaps you want to consider setting ground rules. Request that people raise their hand before speaking to ensure everyone gets an opportunity to speak and much of the interruptions will be omitted. Other ground rules might include ‘treat others as you would want to be treated”, referring to showing respect for the others on the phone call. It is easy to slip into ‘bully’ mode or pushy when you are not physically sitting next to someone.

I’m sure all of those reading this can come up with other ‘rules of etiquette’ that should be employed at this time.

If ever there was a time for compassion and trust, isn’t this that time? Please treat everyone with dignity and caring and with heart. Whether it’s someone you encounter at the grocery store, doctor’s office or hospital, on the bike path or wherever, we are in this together and reliant on one another like never before. Show kindness. Stay safe. Be healthy.

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