I work in Agile & Scrum training, which is always trying to make things comfortable and productive for everyone in a software project management setting, which is a good thing.
The problem is the teams are almost all a composite of distributed teams and cross cultures. It is hard to nail down perspectives.
Why will one team member wish to get straight to work, and another team member from another country is filling air time asking silly questions about member's family? The frustration level for all team members is raised as confusion and negativity swirl. Why are we bothering with this? It is perceived as distracting from the goal, but is it?
I tried a little exercise for each team member, called DOT. Drew a big circle on the whiteboard and took my time filling it in. DOT is now a member of this team, and can hear everything and see everything done in and around this team and project. How comfortable are you with having DOT be part of the team?
How much would you wish to know before you "could" be comfortable? List those questions.
Would you feel more comfortable if you knew if DOT was male or female?
Would you wish to know that it is not your wife, son, or mother-in-law before you are comfortable?
Is it the President of the Company, the customer, government?
Are they liberal or conservative?
All the questions that need to be answered before you can be comfortable about who DOT is, is necessary for you to function. You need to put DOT into context for you?
If DOT is not in the picture of your understanding, you will not feel comfortable working with it. You need to keep asking questions until you can feel trust that DOT is not holding a high power rifle pointed in your direction (metaphorically speaking, of course).
Different cultures have different questions that will put DOT into the picture of their understanding... otherwise.. how would you feel not knowing? How much work could you do with those questions hanging over your head?
Online, whether working, or engaging through social media has different levels of comfort before you can offer trust. Have you written down how many questions you would have to know before you would be comfortable with DOT, or anyone online.
Before you share things you can't take back, know who you are talking with. Twittering your inner most secrets will come back to bite you.
Question cautiously and answer in kind, as you search for common ground. Trade back and forth as to who asks and who answers first, so no one person can just mirror the other. It is a difficult thing to do, building trust, but if your successful it means a relationship has developed.
That doesn't happen instantly and should be a devoted first step before ANY function can move forward.
In the social context, the questions could be the entertainment, so enjoy the inquiries and the dance of learning about each other....just always remember to not only to ask What?, but Why? and How?
DOT could be anyone. It is like picking a number in the lottery? Do you feel lucky? *smile*