Don’t worry about declining social invites because of Covid-19
You’ve been invited to a social gathering, but you’re a little concerned about the coronavirus-related risks. What should you do? Researchers found that we’re unlikely to communicate our concerns if the invitation is coming from someone we want to impress, like a colleague or boss. They also found that we’re more likely to say “yes” to our closest friends, because we worry that they’ll think we’re being overly cautious or judgmental. But these studies ultimately found that our fears of the social costs of saying no are misguided. In some cases, people actually appreciated the honest rejection, and even said they felt closer to their friends after hearing their concerns. To prepare for these uncomfortable conversations, remember that you’re taking care of yourself and your loved ones by declining the invite. Focusing on welfare instead of social concerns can help you gain the courage both to say “no” and to communicate the risks. And you can feel confident when you do so: the data suggests that the real interpersonal benefits of being honest are likely to outweigh the imagined costs.
(This tip is adapted from “It’s Okay to Say ‘No’ to Social Events During Covid,” by Ashley Whillans et al.)
Create psychological safety in your virtual meetings
Teams do their best work when people feel they can raise questions, concerns and ideas without fear of repercussion. But this psychological safety can be hard to create in virtual meetings, where detecting nonverbal social cues can be difficult and distractions are everywhere. The good news is that videoconferencing offers some simple but effective tools to help. Your software probably has a polling function that can give everyone on the team an opportunity to be heard. You can even make these polls anonymous to help people express their feelings and opinions without fear of being singled out. Similarly, encourage your team to use the chat function if they’re more comfortable contributing non-verbally. And think about whether every meeting needs to be a video meeting – a classic conference call may allow for better listening and make people feel less self-conscious. But if you do choose audio-only, be sure not to interpret silence as agreement. Follow up with a summary of the meeting to make sure that everyone is on the same page – and check in individually with anyone who seemed disengaged or reticent to contribute.
This tip is adapted from “How to Foster Psychological Safety in Virtual Meetings,” by Amy C. Edmondson and Gene Daley
Stop comparing yourself to your peers
One of the benefits of social media is that it allows us to stay connected to old friends and former colleagues. But sometimes seeing other people’s successes can make us feel competitive – or even like we’re falling behind. There are a few strategies you can deploy to fight this uncomfortable feeling. First, track your triggers. Identify what drives you to compare yourself to others. For example, is there a specific friend or colleague whose accomplishments make you feel insecure? Next, reframe your thoughts. Instead of thinking of yourself as competing against that person, look at their accomplishments objectively. What can you learn from their progress? Then, counteract your self-doubt by doing something you’re good at – it’ll help you regain confidence and perhaps momentum toward your own goals. And finally, let go of the “shoulds.” They often lead to perpetual insecurity.
(This tip is adapted from “Feel Like You’re Falling Behind Your Peers?” by Nihar Chhaya.)
Find the right mentor
Mentorship helps the careers of both mentors and mentees – research shows they get promoted, attain higher salaries and fend off burnout. Mentoring relationships that develop organically are the most fruitful, but how can you find a mentor during this era of social distancing? To start, embrace remote networking. Put yourself in a position to meet interesting people, both inside and outside of your organisation or industry. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who seem like they might be able to lend a hand. If you’re uncomfortable connecting with strangers, start with your friends’ friends. Ask for an introduction, and see where it goes. You might also tap into your alumni networks, where you’ll have something to talk about right off the bat. And don’t limit yourself to LinkedIn. There are all kinds of social media platforms that are ripe for making connections. This may all seem like a lot of effort, but if you hit it off with someone, your relationship will pay off down the road.
(This tip is adapted from “How Do You Find a Decent Mentor When You’re Stuck at Home?” by Ruth Gotian.)
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, September 14th, 2020