Updated: May 26, 2020
Today it might surprise some of you to hear that after meeting a colleague and listening to more lamenting about how cold COVID-19 has made the coaching game, contrary to last time, I chimed in with complete harmony. Up until recently, I had been one of the people championing the use of video conferencing technology as an alternative to the one on one course/meeting, but things had changed. You see I had had an interesting experience since last seeing her.
I had had a face to face meeting.
Even though I had been video conferencing with a course participant for about two months, I hadn’t seen him face to face. When we finally met I perceived a warmth that I had not experienced while viewing his face on the screen. I wanted to shake his hand but we caught ourselves at the last moment, laughed it off, and decided to shake hands using our eyes. We are men so we grumbled something about the virus and when the madness will end quickly bumped elbows and proceeded to have a very good session.
I am not a religious person though I do refer to myself as a very happy spiritual being. But recently I've had what could best be described as an epiphany, yes I said it, an epiphany. In what felt like an instant I realized that sharing the same space with an individual is and is not comparable to sharing space with that same individual online, even if the meeting is live. I know that was a clumsy statement so please bear with me while I try to elaborate. One becomes aware of one’s own depth or lack thereof for that matter when confronted with flesh and bones that are happy to see and experience you, especially at close proximity. Closeup you realize that you are not unlike your student and this can only be experienced when that student is physically present just 1.5 meters away. There is something intimate about human to human contact and proximity working together, to entertain the notion that it can simply be replaced by your image, or your client's, on a screen is folly.
Then it struck me! We don't need more AI (artificial intelligence), we need more AI! (alive intelligence). Alive intelligence defined as the opposite of social-distancing. It's one intelligent carbon-based unit standing, sitting, walking, within 1.5 meters from another intelligent a carbon-based unit, and engaging with that unit with an open heart and mind. That is Alive Intelligence and it can't be replicated because one has to be alive to experience it. One of the key components of being alive is that no two humans experience it quite the same way. When alive intelligence comes together, the entire being is assessed by the brain and nurtured by the heart. These two functions can't be duplicated by other humans or life forms let alone artificial intelligence. And though the digital meeting is rewarding, without an element of alive intelligence in the mix no matter how sporadically, it's almost useless. I know that sounds a little harsh, so let's just say it's less effective.
I was surprised by how much I had been reading body language while simultaneously helping to develop my course participants' verbal language skills. It was the human interaction that made the experience more enjoyable and more memorable. The course participant was able to try out new vocabulary expressions and watch me react. There was no uncertainty about the effectiveness as I was only 1,5 meters away and couldn't mask my reactions. In the end we laughed a lot more than we had done online.
The same pattern repeated itself 3 or 4 times with other course participants and though I remain convinced that the digital conference or skype call is a very useful tool, it can’t replace the one on one. I am in fact convinced that I should actually look for trainers and coaches globally that share my beliefs and create a global Lucky Mushroom „we love digital and that’s exactly why we want to meet in person“ network.
The smile at only 1,5 meters away from an individual is one of the most powerful tools in a communicator's arsenal and we humas smile with our entire bodies. On the receiving end of a smile from one of my students at 1,5 meters away I find myself more willing to compromise; that is to say I became less rigid. I refuse to accept the rules dumped on a language called grammar or etiquette when it comes to helping one of my course participants express what those rules say they can't or are allowed to. Our dialogues were a little richer, not that they were superficial on a digital platform but online they were more intellectual, for lack of a better term. They were very brain-based. The one on one, face to face, even at 1,5 meters was a little more heartfelt. As a trainer you could read the desperation in the search for a new word in the whole body. What I thought was a crutch was not a crutch at all. The body can’t and won't pretend that it understands when it doesn’t. I think that that should be obvious to any trainer or live coach, that's the type of space we strive to create. Sorry, I tend to ramble at times please bear with me a little longer.
Eventually we moved on to blended learning and that’s where we landed on the same sheet of music and sang in harmony. But not blended learning in the traditional sense with AI and then contact with a trainer. We both agreed that the trainer should be the AI (alive intelligence)! The Alive Intelligence that helps the participant navigate the world of language, sports, health, business, or any other field of expertise. If you connect with your coach, try stopping sometimes, and change to Skype! It's very rewarding and the thing that you think you are missing becomes amplified in the next face to face meeting. Online you can’t read each other’s true body language but you will become very acquainted with the face. But not in an artificial intelligence type way, more in an alive intelligence way if that makes any sense.