Because of COVID-19, many of the critical ways we connect with others – person to person conversations, physical touch, hugs – have become impossible. Millions of people have turned to frequent phone calls, Zoom, and other internet platforms seeking to find ways to replace the missing connection. Often these efforts prove to be dissatisfying.
Sometimes family members would like to be closer and have a deeper connection on the phone or on Zoom, but they don’t really know how to go about it. What can we do that will help build warm feelings and a sense of connection?
In an effort to respond to the dissatisfaction people are experiencing, I have developed an approach I call the “conversational hug.” A conversation hug is an intentional communication that deepens a connection and sense of presence between people who are unable to be together physically. It resonates with those who are alone as well as those who are living with others. It incorporates words, tone of voice, body language, listening skills and “space”. The goal is to approximate what we get from hugs — but through conversation.
Conversational hugs are an offering of kindness that we give to others by listening carefully and sharing a human connection where there is safety and security.
There are countless opportunities for “conversation hugs”. We can focus on specific qualities about the person that you admire or value (you may have noticed how gentle your child was when feeding the ducks, or how patient they were when sorting through seashells). Let them know.
To offer an observation about a quality we see in someone we care about enriches our connection and gives them a sense of being valued. We can tell someone what we learned from them or how we changed as a result of what they did or said. Communicating in this way can give another person the feeling that they made a difference in another person’s life. We can “feel hugged” when we have a conversation. No, it does not replace physical touch, but it can offer warmth and comfort. Engaging in offering meaningful “conversation hugs” can help us feel connected during these times when so many of us feel disconnected from each other.