Breaking out (virtually) ain’t all that bad

So much has happened since my last post I don’t really know where to start. Lets have a stab at it. Janet Street Porter that doyenne of society described her initiation to self-isolation as PR standing for ‘preparation for retirement’. The virus can be nothing other than a baptism of fire. Each stage of our lives is yet another baptism into another room and another chance to experience different relationships between self and society. The current requirement to isolate oneself away from direct contact to anyone outside one’s own family presents real problems for PR folk like me and yet it presents new opportunities as well.

The problems are omni present – talking to Hugh meeting on our walk yesterday – Hugh is almost 90 and is an inveterate socialite – we had to speak on opposite sides of the country road. He was yearning for company and direct communication. I asked him how he managed with his online communications, and he said that it wasn’t the same. He needed that tactile sociable habits that we folk thrive on. He needed the Monday night chinwag with chums in the pub. I said that we could all meet on line – we could toast each other’s health and chat away. He wasn’t too enthused and missed close company enormously and I don’t blame him at all. This isolation thing is sheer hell for those of us who are very social.

Yet as a so called professional communicator – that’s me in the guise of a mediator and facilitator – actual physically being there in front of someone isn’t a prerequisite of both direct and good communication despite my reticence. God only knows we need it now more than ever cooped up as we are in our little familial bubbles. We break out into our Skype and Zoom sessions – we develop new virtual comfort zones being able to communicate almost as well on line as directly. I say almost as so many of us spent ages decrying online mediation saying nothing beats direct face to face communication. Well we were wrong because we always adopted the line that ODR wasn’t pucker and was definitely less effective than being able to look into someone’s eyes directly and utilise our facilitative skills more effectively because they were there – like Hugh in his desire to meet and chat to his chums. We now get loads of converts saying that we can mediate just as well on line as we did when we could meet; its just that now we have to do it so we would say that wouldn’t we.

I believe it’s a question of being yourself – if you can’t be yourself online its not for you; if you can be you and that’s the real ‘you’ then you can adapt and thrive on line just as you did across the table. Just as all young people perhaps are more adept at it than we are, we can forget our fears about being technophobic. We can still be just as effective online, or even on the phone as we might otherwise be across that table. Like the Chamelion we perhaps need to adapt to our current environment and blend in with the environment that we live in and thrive therein.