We live in a disposable society – it’s easy to throw stuff out when we no longer need, like or want it. As an example, the combined impact of clever marketing and planned obsolescence means we’ve barely figured out how to work our new smart phone before we’re desparate to upgrade to the next must-have model.
Sadly, there is increasing evidence that this throw away mentality is impacting our approach to friendships, relationships and other social connections. Thanks to electronic and social media we’re more connected than ever before, but it’s also super easy to disconnect. In a heartbeat (or a finger swipe) we can unfollow, unfriend, reject, delete or even archive any connection that no longer suits or serves us – to quote John Cleese – without so much as a by your leave. After all, why hold on to a relationship when there’s Plenty More Fish In The Sea (as one popular internet dating site would have us believe). Researchers have called this ‘relational disposability’.
Man is a social species – we survive and thrive through our interdependence and interconnectedness. But surely that connectedness involves something more than keeping a compendium of acquaintances, maintained through brief and superficial exchanges in the real or virtual world?
Here’s Dr Brene Brown’s take on connection “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
Deep and genuine connection sustains our relationships, enriches our lives and enhances our wellbeing. There is even evidence that social isolation is more detrimental to our long term health than obesity, alcohol or smoking. But sincere human connection involves opening up, being vulnerable, sharing from your heart as well as your head, giving and receiving love, understanding and support, being able to trust and be trusted, and staying authentic.
It also requires an ongoing investment in the connection for the mutual benefit of both parties. Sometimes that investment is simple, joyous and effortless, other times it takes energy, strength and courage. But that doesn’t mean we simply discard the relationship or upgrade to a new model just because that’s the quick and easy thing to do.
I love connecting with people – it’s part of my job, and it’s part of what drives and nourishes me as a person. Sometimes I’m not very good at it, but I believe utterly in its importance, and always work hard at it.
- If you have loads of connections, why not work at enhancing those rather than finding more
- If connecting doesn’t come easily for you, pick one or two relationships to deepen and work with those
- And whilst the art of connecting involves looking for similarities and sharing common ground, it also means accepting individual differences and the rich diversity within our families, workgroups and communities.
Enjoy connecting or re-connecting over the Christmas and holiday period, and I look forward to connecting with you again in 2017.
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