"Can you turn on your video, please?"
That was about a year ago when I was on a global call. I was called out by another leader, and I totally panicked. No one ever had called me out for not having my video camera on during a meeting.
"My camera's not working," I blurted out, "I need to ask IT to fix it."
They seem satisfied. And moved on to the agenda items for the meeting. I sank back into my chair and sighed. Hiding behind the black box on the screen that simply said "Mita Mallick."
Sure, it was a bold-faced lie. And let me tell you, it was a much-needed lie. Because there are a lot of things I will do at work, for work. I will gladly do them for my peers, for my team, or for my community. But not this.
Please don't ask me to turn on my video. Because I don't want anyone to see my fuzzy eyebrows, my hair pulled back, or my pores. (Maybe I shouldn't sit so close to the camera?) I don't want people to see my kids barging into the room unexpectedly. I don't want anyone to know I am wearing sweats and my college t-shirt. I don't want people to see that my place is largely undecorated and cluttered (who has time to put up pictures.)
For the last six months, my friend Jill Katz started politely emailing me and texting me. To join #AssembleNetwork. And I did everything I could to avoid her attempted requests to connect with me. Because I wasn't about to join.
#AssembleNetwork is movement that Jill created to bring groups of strangers together to build a network of trusted colleagues that become peer coaches and friends in four weeks. #AssembleNetwork meetings are held virtually, via Zoom, over the course of a month and offer a facilitated journey that includes peer coaching, best practice sharing, and one offline connection.
At the end of the month, the connections created are more authentic and more meaningful than meeting someone in a crowded networking happy hour trying to make small talk over a glass of bad Chardonnay.
Did I mention the #AssembleNetwork happens over Zoom? Where you have to turn on your video and make eye contact? Yup, count me out.
Jill sent me one final email in January:
"This is the last time I will ask you to join the #AssembleNetwork. I know this could be very impactful for you. And you have to just say yes."
So that evening. I logged on. Reluctantly. Holding my breath, I signed up for four weeks with video.
Here are 5 things #AssembleNetwork taught me when it comes to the importance of video:
- No one's looking at me. They don't care. They are all busy worrying about how they all look.
- You can change your background on Zoom. On Microsoft teams, you can blur it out. And no one cares if my walls are bare, if the kids laundry is folded in the corner, or if that's IKEA art on the floor, still not up on the wall.
- You don't have to sit so close up to the video so they see your pores. You can sit back a bit and everyone can still hear and see you. Put yourself on mute when you aren't contributing.
- If I need to eat my lunch, or step away to use the ladies room, or I want to just have a moment to SCREAM, it's perfectly acceptable and preferred to turn my video off temporarily. Just turn it back on when ready.
- Physically seeing people, interacting with people, and looking them in their eyes — all over video — does really create authentic connections. Better than at a crowded happy hour where I am usually one of the shorter people there and can barely even make eye contact.
A year later, who would have known that #AssembleNetwork was the way of the future? We now live in the COVID-19 era, an era founded on the principals of social distancing and remote working. So virtual coffee chats and happy hours have to slowly become part of our new normal. Even our children doing "playdates" and circle time via Zoom as part of their own routines. And all of this means you need to be comfortable using video.
And because of my four weeks connecting with strangers, who are all connected as one cohort, I now use video. I settle in and turn my video on. And I even like it. (Just don't tell Jill Katz that.)
So join an upcoming #AssembleNetwork session. Host your book club over Zoom. Ask a colleague for a virtual coffee date. If you missed the memo, the future of work has arrived. And learning how to use and be comfortable with video is part of upskilling yourself in the COVID-19 era.Next time you are in a team meeting, take a deep breath. Turn your camera on and sit back. It's ok to still check your hair and blur your background. And don't worry — I won't notice what you look like. I'll still be busy worrying about me. (Is my messy bun too messy?)
- Please Don't Mistake Me For Another Brown Girl - Swaay ›
- Understanding the Role of Your Body in Communication - Swaay ›
- Has Our Use of Email Spun Out of Control? - Swaay ›
- Please Don’t Ask Me When I Last Washed My Hair - Swaay ›
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get the advice you need!
Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist