How connected are you?
Connections have been the overriding focus of the last few months. Through a number of discussions and events, it became crystal clear that connections are incredibly important to me: and so I made a conscious decision to lean into that, both personally and professionally. It has been the face to face connections that have had the biggest impact - but do they really contribute towards a better quality of life?
And if so, how and what can we do about it?
I’ve always known that relationships are important to me. Waaaay back when I was at school I had to write a short account of my life. I can’t remember the specifics of the brief, but I distinctly recall reading my ‘novella’ and quickly recognising a theme – relationships. How I interacted with friends, family and others was clearly something at my core and hugely influenced how I felt and what I did. And the fact that I remember that event clearly indicates its importance.
And really that has never changed. I often remember events in my life by the people I was with. And when relationships are good, I can deal with anything. When not so good, I find it affects me deeply.
So why have the last couple of months highlighted this again? I think I have become more aware of my increase in energy when I am around people. Often people I know already, but not necessarily - people who are a joy to engage with, interesting to talk to, have a vibe about them, people that are passionate about what they do, people that smile. I would go so far as to say that I NEED to be around these sorts of people! I feel uplifted, energised and happy when I have these connections regularly.
And the recent connections have been far reaching – from networking events, business meetings, client appointments, team get togethers, drinks with the girls, movies with friends, school and community events, family reunions, and concentrated time with my hubby and two little munchkins on our long family holiday. Each one of these has connected me with some amazing individuals and continues to reinforce what keeps me going and that as a group, as communities, connection is critical.
At a time when we are supposedly more connected than ever, the number of people who feel isolated, who feel detached from family, and who don’t feel they have anyone to turn to in times of trouble has increased significantly.
The way our society has developed, including global mobilisation and technological advancements has brought some incredible benefits. But we must, in my view, ensure we don’t as a result lose the aspects of life that make us human and keep us whole. Connections and empathy are things that set us apart from other animals. In the often faceless online world we have to make every effort not to lose the face to face connection that makes us who we are.
We MUST stay connected to those around us. Not just for our own happiness and enjoyment, but to provide connections for others in our communities. It is often said we should spend our time with people who lift us up rather than drain us. And to some extent this is true. But we must also recognise that everyone faces challenges in their lives, and we have a responsibility as individuals in a community to support and help where we can. That help may not always be sought, but sometimes just knowing it is there is enough. Yes, we can offer support and encouragement online, and I love social media for that, but we can only physically ‘do’ and ‘be’ in person. That is what takes the time and effort – and I believe brings the greatest reward for both parties.
Check out some interesting research facts below, and ideas about how you can take action to improve your face to face connections.
Over recent times, I have reconnected with people I haven’t seen in-person for more than seven years! It was incredible to see them – even if rather short and sometimes frenetic as we ‘manage’ the children at the same time. Strong connections made years ago certianly stand the test of time. And then one of the things we most looked forward to on our return was catching up with the amazing people we know here.
What has been so heartwarming is making new brand connections both overseas and at home – meeting people and feeling an immediate connection. That warm feeling as you talk and realise you’ve shared experiences without realising it, that the nuances of being a busy mum trying to juggle it all are the same the world over, and realising that you can provide support and reassurance to eachother no matter how new the relationship.
For sure social media and messaging apps helps keep all these connections alive when you can’t be there in person. But nothing beats that face to face connection. And for all those I am lucky enough to have, I am truly grateful.
Connection Facts & Actions:
Face to face is more productive
Face-to-face requests are 34 times more likely to garner positive responses than emails. (1)
Human beings are born with the innate capability to send and interpret nonverbal signals. People remember much more of what they see than what they hear - which is one reason why you tend to be more persuasive when you are both seen and heard. (1)
Action point: Next time you need to influence others to get things done (at work, on a committee, or within a family), try making those requests face-to-face. Yes, it can take more time and effort on your part, but is more likely to get a result, and builds deeper trust and connection with the person for the longer term (making future requests easier too).
Mobile phones get in the way
Restaurants globally are banning the use of mobile devices to ensure customers enjoy both their meal and their company
The presence of mobile devices in social settings interferes with human relationships…the devices have negative effects on closeness, connection and conversation quality.(2)
Action point: When you’re next having a coffee with a friend or meal with the family, leave your mobile phone in the car, in your bag or in another room (in flight mode). Too often, we leave them face down on the table. But think about the message that sends to our coffee companion: ‘You’re only important until something better grabs my attention’. In reality, most of the time we can cope without our phone’s alerts for an hour or two – and how often does the person calling or messaging really need a response there and then?
Regular meet ups make you feel great
Study participants who met in person regularly with family and friends were less likely to report symptoms of depression, compared with participants who emailed or spoke on the telephone. (3)
Feeling isolated from others can: disrupt sleep, elevate blood pressure, increase morning rises in the stress hormone cortisol, alter gene expression in immune cells, increase depression, and lower overall subjective well-being. (4)
Action point: Get social! I know life is busy, and evenings are often taken up with kids, household chores or admin, catching up on work, community events or committees. I know that on other nights it’s nice to curl up on the sofa and watch some TV. But organise a get together with friends and just see how good it makes you feel! A girls’ night in with some wine and cheese, or book a babysitter for a double date at a local restaurant. Enjoy the laughs, the varying conversations, the change in pace – and deepen those connections to make you feel great. And know it’s all for the good of your health!
(1) Has technology killed face-to-face communication? By Carol Kinsey Gorman (Forbes 2018)
(2) Can you connect with me now? How the presence of mobile communication technology influences face-to-face conversation quality. By Przybylski and Weinstein (Sage Journals 2012)
(3) Face to Face Social Contact Reduces Risk of Depression. By Christopher Bergland (Psychology Today 2015)
(4) Maintaining Healthy Social Connections Improves Well-Being. By Christopher Bergland (Psychology Today 2015)