The news is filled with stories of re-openings. Re-opening of stores, restaurants, offices, gyms and our much-loved hair salons. Reopening doesn’t seem like the right term to describe what every single one of us is going through. It feels more of a reemergence to me, like a caterpillar emerging from a cocoon as a butterfly; changed and beautiful. We are remerging into a new world, one that looks a little different but is still beautiful. We have spent countless days within the confines of our homes, adapting to a new way of life. Our social interactions have changed with each other. The casual hello in the office, an offer to go grab a coffee, meeting up with a prospective client at a local restaurant all seemingly disappeared overnight. We found new ways of interacting through video chats, phone calls, text messages and even through delivery services. We all changed because we had to, will we be better because of it?

Recently I had a contractor at my home for some necessary repairs. Having someone in my home with a face mask was different, but not unexpected. I automatically went to great him with a handshake, which was the universal way of greeting a business associate. I caught myself and turned it into a somewhat awkward head nod. The handshake is gone, I don’t know if it will ever come back, but how will we greet people? I found myself asking the contractor how he was doing and having a meaningful conversation about how he was to cover up my awkward head nod. It wasn’t the business way of interacting, but rather the human way of interacting with each other that had a more positive impact. I received a quote for the work a few hours later, the quote specifically called out all of concerns and offered a resolution to each item. It was vastly different from an itemized quote from the same company I received the prior year. Even though it was more expensive than my prior quote, the fact that it itemized my concerns meant a lot to me. It wasn’t a general estimate with just the total. It was an estimate that included a personal touch, and I appreciated this.

In my professional career, all of my meetings start with the question of “How are you doing?” Instead of the automatic “Fine” response (usually following a handshake), business associates are genuinely responding. I have had more meaningful conversations with business associates during this time than I ever expected, and my life is better for that. I was struck by people’s openness to share what they are struggling with (kids being home) or what is bringing them joy (also the kids being home). This change in conversation has actually been beneficial in moving forward on projects in a time when everything seems to be on pause. Maybe it’s because all parties have a vested interest in each other’s success and well-being? The business relationships built through this time will be stronger because we have changed how we communicate, forced to remove the automatic habits and instead relying on our humanity and expressing a genuine interest in each other.

As we reemerge into society, I hope the genuine interest in each other’s wellbeing remains, because that is truly beautiful. And, we can’t thank our clients enough for working with us during these challenging times. We appreciate you and value our relationship with you.

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