A time of paradoxes
We live in truly interesting times.
Our world has never been more interconnected, and yet as individuals in that world, we have oftentimes never felt more disconnected, from ourselves and one another.
The better we become at using technology to communicate, the less adept we become at the art of conversation.
The more efficient our digital devices make us, the less time we have for one another.
The more we use social, the less truly social we actually become.
‘’I better be more careful with it. There’s no way I’ll be able to buy more time. I can buy anything I want, basically, but I can’t buy time.’’
Warren Buffet – one of the world’s richest men who can buy almost anything.
Time is the great leveller. Everyday we all have the same amount. 24 hours. No more for you, no less for me. When you look at research done into people’s end of life biggest regrets, you’ll find over and over again the sentiments that people wish they had spent more time with loved ones, made more of an effort to stay in touch with friends, were present more around loved ones.
The Great Equaliser
Most people will agree that people matter more than things, that the most important things in life are our health, our loved ones and our friendships. And yet it happens, even amongst our closest friends, that we spend less time together in one another’s company, as society becomes ever more connected, and we, paradoxically, become less connected than ever before.
Let’s consider the notion of ‘the experience economy’, which is terrible corporate jargon, but let’s use it here nonetheless. We have quite recently started valuing experiences over things, and if you pause to think about it, you may notice that your own gift giving and receiving reflects that. This Christmas I bought rugby tickets for my family so we could all go see Munster trounce Leinster in Thomond Park. To be honest, the surprise winning result for us Munster fans was an unexpected bonus! Then my sister received a holiday to Croatia from her husband, while my niece and nephew are sending their mam and dad to Edinburgh.
Experiences over Stuff
I’ve written before on whether money can buy us happiness, with my conclusion being ‘yes it can’, but it depends what we are spending our money on. Experiences make us happier than material things, the research will tell us, and the reason is unsurprising when you consider it. We generally share experiences with other people, while things are just for ourselves. And so, the memory of the shared experience of the rugby game will last much longer in all our minds as a great time, than will my joy at the lovely paraben-free face cream I received.
Life is certainly busy, and we are all juggling many things at once, working from different timetables, and following different routines. And so, it can be easy to justify how time can fly by, filled to the brim with busyness, and how we can neglect to make the effort to spend real time with the ones we love. The ones we love remember. The most important people in our lives. The constants, the unconditionals, the ones with whom we have shared and colourful histories and wonderful memories.
We have to see more of each other
How many of you saw the video that went viral this Christmas just gone? Not the John Lewis one, but the one done by an ad agency in Madrid for a client, liquor brand Ruavieja. The video is called Tenemos que vernos mas – We need to see each other more, and it is a stark and uncomfortable reminder of the consequences of how we choose to spend our time. Because you see, when you give your time to one thing, something else isn’t getting it. And too often, today, in our connected, screen- focused world, the ‘thing’ that isn’t getting our time, is the people in our lives, our loved ones.
‘’It’s definitely a contradiction. People say that their loved ones are their priority, but the way they spend their time doesn’t support that statement,’’
says Rafael Santandreu, a psychologist who worked on the video.
He does on to explain when we accept this contradiction by saying that it has to do with our brains, and how we don’t think about dying and so believe we have all the time in the world to do the things that are important to us. And so we give our time, that one precious commodity that cannot be bought no matter how much gold bullion or bitcoin you have, away, to our screens, to an online world that cannot fill our souls with emotional connection and wellbeing in the same way that our real life human interactions and social connections can.
And in doing so, we gradually begin to lose our social superpowers. The essentials of conversation and connection are social superpowers, and we shouldn’t underestimate their value and their importance. They are the soft skills that can never be replicated by AI, or replaced by automation. They are the truly transferable skills, the ones that will stand to you, regardless of how fundamentally the landscape of the working world changes and continues to change as we march progressively forward.
Our Social Superpowers
Your dearest friendships, greatest romances, and most successful business relationships, all began with small talk. The ability to make small talk is a social superpower. The ability to engage easily and confidently in conversation is a social superpower.
The essentials of conversation are social superpowers in themselves:
- Listening – real skill. Most important for good conversation
- Social awareness – reading the mood of the room, of the group, of another person, being sensitive to situations, awareness of nuance (subtleties in meaning, sound, expression), congruency (consistency in verbal, body lang., tone)
- Empathy – cognitive, emotional, empathetic concern
- Emotional Intelligence – 4 parts self awareness, managing our emotions, empathy, social skill
- Reading body language
- Hearing what’s not being said
It’s no surprise to me that soft skills are being topping many an ‘In demand for 2019’ list this January. I’ve been championing the vital need for soft skills, the social superheros that I feel so passionately about, with over 12 months now.
Get busy getting social
So if you plan on making any resolution this January, let it be that you will try and carry the spirit of Christmas, that spirit of connection and conversation that we indulge in during the more relaxed festive season, with you throughout the year, even as things get busier. Because truly, something is broken in our lives if we are too busy to make time for the ones we love.