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Emotionally Connected and Socially Distanced

There’s a beach party going on across the canal at my summer house on the Jersey Shore. Apparently, the place where many are choosing to shelter at home is at the beach.

While social distancing has made recluses of us all, (and elevated the appreciation of early childhood educators to Rockstar status), many of us are feeling lost, lonely and afraid.

What harm could a little day drinking with the neighbors be at a time like this?

Newsfeeds tell us the Grim Reaper is the uninvited guest at social gatherings of more than six and he’s not leaving without being paid his pound of flesh. It’s serious, scary and sobering no matter how much we self-medicate with booze.

We are social creatures. There’s good reason for this. It’s in our DNA. We are born to need other human beings. Those longings to remain in human connection start at infancy and last a lifetime. In the book, Social: Why our Brains Are Wired to Connect, by UCLA professor of Psychology, Matthew Lieberman, the research demonstrates that our need for social connection is as critical as our need for food, water and shelter. This need is so strong that for many professionals, social connections, affirmations and experiences are more motivating than financial compensation.

The science suggests that social pain in the form of loss or rejection is a super-power motivator that drives us forward to creatively solve problems or stand together in solidarity when we are powerless to prevent loss. Has anyone seen the neighborhoods in Italy singing from the balconies?

Nothing of true worth happens without human connection, cooperation and collaboration. We can’t overcome this pandemic alone. We need each other.

In the 1947 novel, The Plague, by Albert Camus a village suffers an outbreak of a strange disease and must come to terms with exile in the form of quarantine and being cut-off from the outside world. At first, they ignore the seriousness of the situation until they discover through painful losses, the only way to survive is to leave behind the excuse that the epidemic is someone else’s responsibility to deal with. They trade indifference and denial for social responsibility and selflessness.

“What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well. It helps men to rise above themselves.”

― Albert Camus, The Plague

Social distancing is uncomfortable but living without social connection is unbearable. As professionals, this is an opportunity. There’s no denying it. It’s not business as usual. It’s a time to cultivate the human side of interacting and as professionals to connect in a way that is sensitive, supportive and lays the foundation for the future prosperity that will come. This kind of relationship equity building always has a return on investment and while the world needs us physically distant our humanity asks us to be emotionally right next to each other.

Cathleen Mancino is a Professional Leadership Coach and Speaker. Reach out here for information on how to schedule a complimentary coaching session or workshop.

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