By Jenny Hamilton
I might be odd, but I like the new normal of meeting with people virtually! I’m an introverted, shy techie who enjoys trying new ways of doing things! I also enjoy people but am most comfortable being alone. Virtual fits me perfectly! (Yes, my poor husband often has trouble getting me to connect with him when we’re “in person”.)
So what’s the status of my “in-person” relationships? I think they’re getting better! Why? Because, believe it or not, during my virtual encounters I’m often reminded of some very important truths about relationships. Here are some favorites of what I like to call …“My Virtual Presents."
1) Bad connection is a bummer! Sometimes you have to disconnect and try again. Sometimes something goes wrong when you’re entering a conversation. Maybe it’s just not the right timing. Maybe I’m distracted. Maybe you’re irritated. We try to talk but we’re lagging and freezing. It often helps to end the conversation and agree to start over with a new connection—maybe later.
2) Muting myself is a good thing. This is one of the first things I learned from my virtual meetings and the first that I decided was good to continue with “in person” meetings. I have a tendency to interrupt. With virtual I have to stop talking while you’re talking and let you say all you’re going to say before I speak. That’s just good conversation etiquette, isn’t it?
3) It looks like I’m not paying attention when I’m listening to you! This problem results when one is looking at their computer screen (which is necessary during a virtual meeting) rather than their camera. Though I’m not the best at making eye contact with people, the lack of it during virtual meetings has caused me to resolve to always do it in person; along with using lots of non-verbal cues-- head nods, smiles and of course, the thumbs up!
4) Did you just say … ? Isn’t it always best, with all the momentary glitches and distractions in life that cause us to lose focus and miss pertinent details, to clarify what we thought we heard? Misunderstandings are a part of life! When we take the time to make sure we understand each other it can save us a lot of worry time, hurt feelings, and trying to figure out what the person meant. And sometime it provides a good laugh!
5) During our virtual meetings, I’m often hiding something and feel relieved that you can’t fully experience me. I’m still in my PJs. I ate a salad with fresh garlic for lunch. I’ve worked out but not showered yet. Virtual meetings have caused me to become a bit too relaxed in preparing myself for being with others. I’ve had to remind myself that, though it’s not quite as necessary in a virtual meeting, a little humbling self-examination and tidying up is a very good thing. To put that in a deeper sense -- we all need some confession time and a cleansed conscience to be able to face others freely without hiding something. Grace is the key ingredient to a good relationship with oneself and others. And we all need it all the time!! Regardless of all the cleaning there’s always more to do. Often the only thing that can be done after all the purging is to be vulnerable, tell the truth and have a good laugh at oneself. You might find that others are “wearing their PJs” too!
6) We always live “virtually”! Virtual is an interesting word. It means nearly, almost. It reminds me of I Cor 13:12 Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am full known! Or Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Though I’m only seeing an image when we meet virtually, the real you is out there somewhere. We’re just living in the now and the not yet! If I don’t have any trouble believing that, why do I doubt God? There are images of Him all around us! And there is a real and perfect and beautiful world in the “heavenly realm” that we will experience someday! What we see now is only a fallen image. And we only see through our fallen eyes of interpretation. There is a perfected you and a perfected me that will be real someday. And though it’s the virtual you that I live with, I believe I should treat you as the real and perfected. Calling out the positive and believing the best about a person gives them confidence and courage to face personal challenges and persevere through difficulties. Isn’t it inspiring and refreshing to hear someone say, “I believe in you! You’re almost there! You can do it!”? It’s so much better than constantly focusing on the negative. I choose to live in the not yet. That’s my virtual reality present to you.
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.