Something strange has happened that made me feel grateful that I didn’t post the blog I had intended to earlier this year. Before the pandemic, I planned to publish a piece on relational proximity.
Relational Proximity is one of the dimensions upon which I make decisions in my own self-leadership; it is the degree of closeness of a relationship. The opposite way of thinking about relational proximity is to think in terms of relational boundaries, about whom we choose to let into our lives and to what degree we are open and transparent with the other person.
However, I’ve noticed something fascinating about how my relationships changed and developed during the pandemic. In a way, it has mirrored not just the constraints but also the value I place on each relationship. Allow me to give just one personal example.
Our home is part of a cluster of houses bordering green open space. We knew our neighbour next door fairly well, and each Christmas we get to know the others in our cluster a little more when we invite them around with their children for an afternoon party. We might have occasionally taken in deliveries for them. But they were pretty much strangers, keeping themselves to themselves… that is, until now.
Soon after lockdown, one of these neighbours formed our own little WhatsApp group. Now we shop for each other. Check out local issues for each other, and are generally leaning into each other, helping where we can. For example, “I have a ‘lodger’ in my parking space. Anyone know who this is?” There is now a very healthy community spirit in our group.
On the other hand, we saw a lot of some people if we had driven 20 minutes to our faith community meetings; now, not so much. Yet, others whom we are linked with through a healthcare charity we are involved with, have become fast friends, not only in our region but in other countries, on other continents. For example, I’ve discovered it can get cold in winter in Swaziland. With all my images of Southern Africa, this was a real revelation to me.
My point is that geographical proximity does not necessarily make you closer to someone. Zoom has demonstrated this reality, and perhaps communications technology—where are prevented from meeting physically in businesses, churches and leisure centres—is amplifying our awareness of it.
Even affinities of ideology or faith or race or gender don’t always matter the most when you draw near to someone, either physically or virtually. Relational proximity is something that reflects our deepest values. Simple acts of kindness are received and given. Suddenly a new positive culture arises where before there was none.
The pandemic has changed my landscape of relationships.
One of the keys I explore from our research into Positive Outliers—people who achieve and lead with a different focus— is Leaning to People. You can download my free ebook here:
The Seven Keys eBook
Revealing the Seven Key Areas that High Performers Pay Attention