Humans are inherently social creatures. We are built this way. Other animals are too, but given the profound capacities of our brains, and our distinct languages, speech patterns, and mannerisms, we have the ability to ask why, pursue advancement, solve world problems, and constantly be innovative. We also rely on each other greatly, no matter if it is family or friends; husband or wife; brother or sister; boss or coworker, coach or player; professor or student.
While some – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elon Musk – do extraordinary work on their own terms, they would be nothing without the people in their teams. Working together and building connections is truly evident in the business world and the global economy, and during the Covid-19 pandemic, the concept of building relationships has taken a striking turn. Many students across the world are forced to study from off-campus locations. No longer are we attending conferences, events and social gatherings. Companies have had to change their strategies. Everything has become virtual with Zoom Meetings and video chats; people are now working remotely, and this may never change!
Networking and communicating, as we know it, has taken a huge step back and we must cope with this new reality. On a personal level, it can also be quite difficult to be social and catch up with good old friends and family. This is not only because of Covid-19, but peoples’ lives do change. As we grow older, people take different paths. Some people come into and out of our lives as fast as a squirrel that darts across the street.
Therefore, how do we move forward with relationship building in this Covid-19 pandemic era? To answer this, I turn to the all-encompassing concept of guanxi (关系) that originates in China. Guanxi is much more than landing a business deal or a handshake. The concept extends the office and the parties involved; rather, the concept dives into deeper ties– the history of a country, the history of an individual, the relationships and connections that one already has. Having strong guanxi with anyone – a friend, business partner, family member – can provide one with strong benefits, perks, and enriched sense of well-being. With guanxi, individuality gradually fades away, and a sense of empathy arises, along with and the powerful feeling of working together to reach a common goal.
Although I find social media to be quite toxic at times, I have found myself being more a little more active on LinkedIn. I may reach out to an old friend I haven’t talked to in a while, or someone who I have never met personally but am really interested by their profile, background, and the work they do. Yes, sometimes I send them a message. And, if they don’t respond, so what? If anything, reaching out with a positive message can only be good. I similarly did the same on WhatsApp the other day with two different friends, from two completely different lives, who share a common interest. I wanted to connect them, and it made logical sense to me that they should know each other.
Because of the pandemic, meeting and communicating with people will often be through a digital platform, for now. However, like everything, time heals all wounds, and eventually things may resemble a pre-covid-19 pandemic world. However, if we remember the concept of guanxi; place our individual ambitions aside; acknowledge the fact that we are all human dealing with this pandemic to varying extents; and frankly just talk for the sake of normal conversation, we will all be better off. I am not suggesting that you must break out of your shells and become social butterflies overnight. Just know that the slate is clean; there is no better time to redefine yourself, be open to meeting new people, and hear new perspectives.