Can we create emotionally intelligent connections online?

love, conscious acts of kindnes, emotional intelligenceI’m a “connector”… I love making new connections with colleagues around the world . . . I love connecting people to each other. I love the social networks that we’ve created to inspire each other with wisdom, commitment,  research, and experience with emotional intelligence. Through social media, as have many of you, I’ve shared ideas, feelings, stories, photographs, and resources with thousands of people.  Each day, I learn so much from these posts and ongoing conversations. I  am so grateful that many of my social network connections, in countries near and far, have become my friends.  While some skeptics still question the possibility of genuine and deep social network relationships, I actually find that online conversations, at least in our EQ Network, can be even more meaningful, supportive, honest, and authentic than many face to face relationships. 

What does it take to connect authentically and with EQ over the Internet? I think it requires using all of our EQ competencies to bridge the virtual gap between us. As with all decisions, the desire to engage in deep connections with others, whether in person or online, requires that we:

Know Ourselves: how we are feeling and how others, whom we often cannot see, are feeling, and that we recognize our patterns (e.g., are we impatient with the direction of the conversation? are we so eager to reply that we’re not listening? are we fully engaged or multi-tasking? do we let others answer for us? etc.) when we comment on a blog post or hear others speak on a virtual connected call or webinar. 

Choose Ourselves: that we intentionally  imbue our words and actions with realistic optimism, that we navigate emotions, which is hard to do when we’re impatient with tech challenges or facing words with which we disagree; that we engage our intrinsic motivation and remember why these online connections are important to us, and that we are all working to make a difference; that we think about the consequences of our words and actions when we respond in an online forum or conversation, so that our response is framed with EQ. 

Making virtual connections requires that we Give Ourselves–that we really listen, with empathy and appreciation for different perspectives, and because we care to create a better world, ripe with and for emotional intelligence. Our online responses should add value and support others, not just promote our own agenda. It takes practicing EQ to listen well when we do not see each other’s facial expressions or hear each other’s tone of voice. Marco Iacoboni has demonstrated that via mirror neurons, our brains react to “seeing” others’ actions and feelings, as if they were our own. In connecting meaningfully and empathically online, I believe we can also share the magic of having our mirror neurons spark virtually around the globe!  

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A few days ago, several of us on the EQ Educator Facebook Group arranged to spend an hour in real-time on Skype discussing with a network member some issues she was facing with a children’s social skills group she was facilitating. What an insightful conversation we had, where we all shared experiences, resources, and suggestions, and where we grew much closer in the process. It was wonderful that we could have this five-way conversation from California, Arizona, New York, and Durban, South Africa!  

Brene Brown said: “Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” It takes courage to share our vulnerabilities as we connect online, and yet I find it so incredibly rewarding when we go “beneath the surface” and really trust each other!

 

 HOT OFF THE PRESS: Speaking of connections…..Edutopia, the George Lucas Foundation’s great website dedicated to sharing and advocating for social emotional learning and other ways to dramatically change education for the better—Edutopia has just agreed to be a NexusEQ conference ally!! While on their site, see Edutopia’s video: Five Keys to Successful Social and Emotional Learning. Thank you, Edutopia, for this great connection!

What is your experience connecting with others online?  What is most important to you? What strategies do you use to have authentic relationships online? Please share here! 

 

About the author - Dr. Susan Stillman

Director of Education, Six Seconds' Global Office: With years of experience as an educational leader, scholar-practitioner, K-12 school counselor, and higher ed faculty, Susan brings a diverse background and set of skills to bear on her mission to build and sustain the Six Seconds' educational programs and to support Six Seconds' team members around the world, working to develop EQ in children, educators, families, schools, and communities.

Comments for this article (6)

  • bbanublog says:

    Fantastic Information for online users!! Too good to be true exemplifing the need for the same for all individuals worldwidde

  • Thanks, Susan, for bringing EQ skills to Social Media in such a concrete way. I just know that if people use their EQ skills as you have recommended, stronger connections will be formed and we will support each other in ways we are not yet even aware of!! Thank you for your thoughtful article.

  • Wanda Townsend says:

    Great blog Susan. I agree with you in that it “requires using all of our EQ competencies to bridge the virtual gap” between one another in order to have that deep connection that is meaningful (and rewarding).

    • Hi Wanda!! I agree that it is difficult to keep connections going. We are all so busy. After we leave a wonderful conference like Nexus, we are inspired, but the spark may fade as time goes on. I’d like to start an EQ book club or a monthly EQ salon!! Where do you live? I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    • Dr. Susan Stillman says:

      Hi Wanda: Thanks for your comment. I find the same needs for authenticity in online interaction whether as an online instructor or blogger or Facebook member or email respondent. I love that you said you’re also looking for meaningful and rewarding connections. I feel fortunate that I seem able to create these moments often-whether in email, blogs, or in Skype. Someone yesterday said she felt no matter how busy, I seemed to be there for her, as if no one else mattered at that moment, which made me feel really good…-but it takes continual effort and care to know my feelings and typical patterns of responding, and to care about word and tone choice, to remember the personal connection before the “business”, to extend optimism, to truly value alternate perspectives (that’s a hard one for me! :-) So often, after I reflect on what I’ve written in an email or post, I’ll rephrase with more empathy. It’s a work in progress. :-)

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