This time last year, the term “new normal” was unheard of. Fast forward to today, and it’s become a term that just about all of us (like it or not) has adapted as every day language to sum up, the unexpected turn of events of 2020. A year ago, it was common to muster up a casual conversation with someone, while grabbing coffee at your favorite barista. Trying to initiate this same conversation today, and it can become a mildly awkward moment where two people are attempting to speak to one another through muffled words while wearing face masks with misinterpreted hand gestures. When you’ve become accustomed to interpreting facial expressions such as a smile, or someone mouthing the word, “Hello,” the challenge we’ve all come to face, at some point, is how do we continue interacting with one another and building relationships day to day, when our main lines of communication have been impacted through the measures of social distancing? How can we avoid making things awkward?
Century 21 real estate agent, Burnz Fernandez, hasn’t missed a beat with his clients and says he’s found the sweet spot in making things less awkward in his day to day interactions. Building and maintaining relationships is the bread and butter for most real estate professionals and entrepreneurs alike, and the measures of social distancing can make it difficult to communicate and show yourself friendly to others.
In California, when masks were first mandated, Burnz began hand-delivering them to his clients to continue fostering those relationships. “It’s about making sure people understand that you are here to help them,” Burnz says. It’s in times like this where you may have to consider thinking outside the box for simple ways to communicate through thoughtful gestures while interacting with those you encounter.
According to psychologists, increased levels of social interaction can cause the hormone oxytocin to be released in the brain. Known as the “soothing hormone” studies have shown the release of this hormone can have a positive impact such as wellbeing, stress reduction, and even health promotion. Though we have a new normal with our person to person interaction, there are other ways we can create non-awkward social experiences. Paul J. Zak, Professor of Economic Sciences, Psychology & Management and Director, Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, believes that using technology to communicate and stay connected with others may be 80% as effective as face to face interaction.
Entrepreneurs can follow the necessary safety precautions while still building relationships. Implementing technology such as texting, video chatting, email, and social media can be ways to build awareness for your business and simultaneously build the relationships you and your business need. “Social media has helped a lot,” Burnz says. “I post a lot about work and personal life and I try to be genuine. People see this and when they see they can learn from you or relate form you, they are more inclined to reach out to you and they feel like they can trust you.” He has continued to generate new leads through the use of social media. He has also used technology as leverage to communicate “what to expect” with his clients during the homebuying process to help put them at ease and build their trust.
Engaging with others doesn’t have to be awkward, and in speaking with Burnz, he shares some of the ways he’s been able to not only continue building his business, despite social distancing measures, but he’s also strengthened relationships and built new ones.
- Over iterate- Burnz shares, “I am very expressive and I talk with my hands. I also have very expressive eyebrows.” Even wearing a mask, you can communicate with others in a meaningful way. Whether it’s through a gentle head nod or smiling with your eyes, adding some extra expression can go a long way.
- Be sensitive- “I keep things short and quick, in a caring way, instead of going straight to asking them if they want to buy a house. You just don’t know what they’re going through, with all that’s happening,” he says. Putting others first and considering them outside of your work relationship can help build a solid foundation moving forward.
- Be authentic- “Be your authentic self. There is only one you and you can’t alter yourself because of what’s happening. Learn to work around you.” Creating authentic workarounds to new communication challenges can help put an end to those awkward encounters.
If you’ve found yourself struggling with what to say, or wondering if the person you said “hello” to as you walked past each other even heard you; know you’re not alone. We are all learning to find our new footing with what’s become our new normal. Taking just a few moments, each day, to intentionally communicate, in a more meaningful way, can help things feel…well, less awkward.