Monthly Archives: November 2008

The Virtual Handshake

Years before the electronic, virtual realm, people relied upon face-to-face interactions for real-time communication. During these times, meetings, greetings, partings, the offering of congratulations, and the completion an agreement were often accompanied by the handshake, with its purpose is to convey trust and parity.  It is believed that the handshake has origins as peace demonstration; that, in fact, no weapons are held by either party.  In today’s global, ever-expanding online environment, however, this demonstration of peace becomes increasingly more difficult and the notion of “First, do no harm” is more and more relevant as information and access to information grows exponentially. As people share and interact more in virtual forums, exposing various aspects of life – from careers to family, thoughts to actions – the opportunity to do harm, to wrong another person, is greater.

This year, The Economist Intelligence Unit wrote about The role of trust in business collaboration. Interestingly enough, the article concedes that “the role of trust is not easily defined” in terms of collaboration. I believe trust is having confidence that the participating parties will do no harm, will do no wrong to the other.  How we, as individuals, convey this precept in collaboration is nebulously difficult in the absence of multisensory queues such as hearing tone of voice, seeing another’s eye movements, or even feeling for the presence of a weapon.

Despite the challenges of creating trust virtually, it still remains the vortex and vertex for collaboration, with the absence or loss of it instigating the dissipation of collaboration and the creation of it elevating participants and activities to new heights and dimensions. As a former date coach and someone who has personally been through the very methodical and comprehensively intricate act of creating a prenuptial agreement, I believe the fundamentals of creating trust in any relationship are universal, and we can leverage much of what is espoused by the extremely profitable business of marriage, things like “State who you are – loudly” and “Make sure your words match the message.”  When I think about my best, most successful collaborative efforts – and evaluate them against a marriage counselor’s 10 Crucial and Surprising Steps to Build Trust in a Relationship – I find all ten elements present.

To begin to build trust, we need not look any further than ourselves.  Our thoughts, our actions, our emotions – are all pieces of the puzzle to “us” and the only way to create the full picture is to take them out of the box and spread them out for exploration. This is our virtual handshake.

And now let me apologize for not doing this sooner: Hi, I’m Amy.

You can get a glimpse into my life at: www.twitter.com/sengseng