Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

I’ve lost my conversational mojo – can I relearn the art of small talk?

Anne says: As we all start to emerge from varying degrees of isolation and for some, returning to the workplace, this article asks the question: How do we reconnect with each other?

Great question! We’ve Zoomed ourselves into a state of conversational inertia. We’ve become fatigued, overstimulated by the process of participating in video calls. The author describes the intensity of reading facial expressions and talking (not to mention watching ourselves talk!). Add to this context our aversion (pre-COVID) to voice calls. We had become used to texting, not talking. From WhatsApp to Slack, both personal and workplace chats have dominated our communications.

Now we have to learn to be social again in face-to-face situations. How do we do that? The author weaves his way through a number of experts, including a hairdresser (remember how much they know about their clients!), psychologists, experts on communications and Robin Dunbar (yes – the Dunbar number Oxford University professor of evolutionary neuroscience).

Their advice? Varied and interesting. Ranging from what we might consider obvious: ask questions to elicit answers (open questions), listen, use humour, and use dogs (yes, the 4-legged ones), amongst others.

But let’s think about these strategies. People in isolation, some living alone, are craving social connection. If you ask them an open question, you need to respect their need to respond – even if it’s rambling and not what you expected. On the other hand, you could practice some short, but meaningful responses. Living in another country where my fluency of language is limiting at times, I frequently prepare some conversational topics – review the vocabulary, check the correct tense to use and practice pronunciation. Why not think about topics you could discuss or share with others?

Humour. I’m not a fan. If we don’t know how people have experienced their time in lockdown, humour may not hit the mark. Tread carefully. Not everyone is feeling optimistic about the future, or even their current state and humour may have unintended effects.

Now – dogs! Brilliant idea!! Whoopi has been so busy lately. So many people are keen to pat (and hug) Whoopi, then tell her about everything. They’re not directly telling me, they’re telling Whoopi. The classic therapy dog model. No judgement, just listening, making eye contact and oozing with a gentle, caring demeanour. That’s my girl!

But do we have to talk at all? Perhaps reconnecting with each other may be as simple as just sharing some time and space – without feeling the pressure of chit-chat? Or perhaps take a walk in a small group? Let’s not create more anxiety – the final advice from the author?

Chill out and see what happens

Or, as we say in Barcelona, Tranquila!

Read: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/apr/17/lost-conversational-mojo-relearn-art-of-small-talk-rhik-samadder

6 super fun activities for your next virtual meeting

Jakkii says: Without realising it would when I initially chose this piece, my article this week ties in nicely to Anne’s piece about having lost our conversational mojo! Well, sort of – it’s not about in-person connection, but still involves strategies and preparation for making the best out of virtual meetings so we can better connect with one another, and hopefully not be so fatigued.

Now, I have to say, not all of these are activities I would personally employ – and I know of at least one of these that Anne would veto immediately! But there are some that I think are useful for getting some energy going without being too over the top, and for getting people engaged. I do think this list would be more useful if it included more games and activities that were for collaborating, eliciting ideas and thinking through solutions, but there is certainly a need for activities that help you break up the need to focus and concentrate with a bit of fun and distraction, which in turn helps you refocus and concentrate once again.

Have a look at the list, and try one (or more) at your next online meeting, especially if you’re scheduled for over an hour. I’d love to hear from you which activity you used, and how it went. And, if you have other activities you’ve been using in your meetings, I’d love to hear about those, too! Give me a shout in the comments or on social media.

Read: https://hbr.org/2021/04/6-super-fun-activities-for-your-next-virtual-meeting

Friday Fives

Hybrid workplace

Remote work and the digital workplace

Communication, collaboration, engagement, and culture

Community management, moderation and misinformation

Privacy and data

Big Tech

Social media

Extras

This is interesting: They hacked McDonald’s ice cream machines—and started a cold war

Things that make you go hmmm: The bioethics of the first human-monkey hybrid embryo

Space: NASA lands Ingenuity, the first-ever Mars helicopter

Podcast: Future of Storytelling with Damian Bradfield (Ep. 23)

Friday playlist: Feel Good Friday

Sydney Business Insights – The Future, This Week Podcast

This week: hybrid work models, and their hidden complexities and implications in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The story this week

09:03 – companies reorganise for hybrid work

Listen: https://sbi.sydney.edu.au/hybrid-work-on-the-future-this-week/


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