Saying goodbye on Zoom meetings to end the session is a truly unique strain of pandemic awkwardness. Whereas in in-person meetings, there’s body-language and physical cues to lean on—glancing at the clock, standing up from a desk, walking out a door—based on my experience of nearly six months now, ending a virtual meeting goes a little differently. From that palpably long pause before you’re free to go (as in, leave the screen, to waving at your computer screen along with a chorus of farewells from other members of the meeting, there is no clean way to close a call. But there’s something I feel like we haven’t talked enough about, and since this is a safe space, I want to address it: Has anyone else accidentally said “love you, bye” when signing off from a work Zoom?
And if not, what about having at least felt the urge to use that strangely intimate and not-at-all professional sign-off as you’re logging out? I, for one, have to resist the “love you, bye” impulse all. the. time. Maybe it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I only acted upon it with colleagues I am close with or even my manager, but what if it slipped out at the end of a company-wide meeting, with countless people on the receiving end who don’t even know me? And more importantly, where does this knee-jerk reaction even come from?
According to one mental-health pro, we can blame our brain’s sense of autopilot for this one. “We live our lives in ‘automatic’, meaning we follow basically the same steps and have the same experiences daily,” says psychotherapist Jennifer Teplin, LCSW. “Have you ever gotten to work or gotten to a restaurant and truly forgot how you got there? That is the automatic moment. Our bodies are creatures of habit, so it’s not shocking that we’re able to do many things without mindful thought behind it.”
This principle helps to explain why those casual urges to utter “I love you” emerge even with people who aren’t in that relationship tier: It happens because the mind on autopilot parlays the usual closing statement for conversations (“love you, bye!” is my gotta-get-off-the-phone signal to my parents, for instance) to an office setting.
“Saying ‘love you, bye’ on a work Zoom falls under this umbrella of automatic habits. … By the time we’re signing off on the work call, we’re already focused on the next task at hand, meaning the sign-off is the last thing we’re focusing on.” —Jennifer Teplin, LCSW
“Saying ‘love you, bye’ on a work Zoom falls under this umbrella of automatic habits,” says Teplin. “If we frequently use the same sign-off, why wouldn’t we just continue to use it ‘mindlessly’ in a work Zoom? We’re probably even more likely to have this automatic behavior reaction because by the time we’re signing off on the work call, we’re already focused on the next task at hand, meaning the sign-off is the last thing we’re focusing on. Hence, the automatic behavior returns.”
And now that many of us are working remotely, at home, rather than our typical office settings, the brain may be more apt than ever to confuse the differences between saying goodbye on Zoom for work and saying goodbye on Zoom with friends. Both interactions now occur in the same place (the home) and on the same platform.
And while a “love you, bye” or any other cringe-y alternative certainly won’t ruin your life by any stretch of the imagination, it’s still something to avoid when you’re, say, ending your quarterly review. Because, let’s face it, it is the adult equivalent of calling your teacher “mom.”
Luckily, though, no complex rewiring is required to help stop you from saying your go-to sign-off in a work context. All you need to do is be a little mindful and put friction between your breakneck pace of living. “A great way to challenge automatic behavior is to move slowly and consciously through life,” Teplin says. Hopefully this will also curb my compulsion to scream “‘Sup, bitches!” at my daily morning meeting, but time will tell.
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