Ok so maybe I have ranted on this before, but do you ever get the feeling that the art of conversation, and by association actual engagement with other people, lost? I can't blame the entire notion on the Twitters and Facebooks of the world for facilitating such fragmented communications between people without taking a deeper, and possibly introspective look at the situation.
It seems to me the business normal of the past decade has been to continually do more with less as a result of the negatively trending economic outlook. And when I look at the social and business interactions I have in the workplace I see the same trend of fragmented communications happening professionally as well as personally, and I do believe this concept was more prevalent earlier in the workplace. The constructs of work-life balance get thrown out the window, and we kill off those social interactions as a result.
Does the do more with less notion breed this need for fragmentation? What if we just took a few sparse moments to relate something meaningful about ourselves through what might be perceived as commonplace interactions?
I recently had my one-on-one meeting with a member of my staff and I forced myself to start the conversation off socially, rather than professionally to challenge this notion in a small experiment. My colleague and I are both hobbyist photographers and we took a journey down that path that was fulfilling in more than one way. For starters, I think it strengthened the relationship I have with this member of my staff. The added benefit was that good feeling you get when you have a conversation of substance, it shifted my outlook for the day to the positive. When you talk about things that inspire you, you cannot help but be inspired again.
The feeling hit when I shared a concept from a photographer that always gets me excited about photography as a medium within to tell a story. The photographer in questions suggests that one should look at everyday objects which you perceive in your peripheral subconsciously in a different way. We all go through life with our brain actively perceiving and processing millions of tidbits of information, but we rarely stop to comprehensively process it all. This would be impossible to do.
Take your daily commute as an example. You may pass by thousands of cars along your journey from home to place of business. But what can you recall about them? Your brain knew they were there, perceived them to be red sports cars, blue sedans, white SUV's, but did you connect with them in any way? Did anything stand out? Can you report specifics about any car you didn't follow directly behind? How about that car you followed? Probably not.
The point of this exercise is to look at the stapler on the desk and to visualize and think of a chair, and to do this 10 times a day. This forces our brain to actually take in what we are looking at and to think about it in a new way, and therefore perceive it in a new way. The end goal is to correlate this to how you look at a scene and to actively perceive its elements rather than just raise the camera and click. To think about what you are shooting, the angle, the composition, lighting etc before just snapping the shot. Perceive through the lens, and within it, not just from behind it.
What struck me about this conversation is why do we not take this same approach more actively with all of the elements of our lives? Come at them with a fresh perspective? We all talk about the benefits of the "new eyes" approach and bringing someone in fresh. At what point did we lose objectivity in subject matters we are supposed to be experts in? We hide behind the notion of being too busy, which all of us are in some way or another. But what I want to try to do is become more engaged with those things I take for granted, and that was the message I reminded myself of when relating the story above and through the exercise. I guess we should stop and smell the roses from time to time, because they can lead us on adventures and give us the means to relate and share stories with other beings in a meaningful way. In essence the main subject of my story became the lesson that ratified the point of this social exercise.
I have a simple snapshot of my daughter to thank for this conversation and reminder. My pledge? Try to start all meetings with something personal. Just because it is business, doesn't mean the human aspect of social interaction needs to be lost, dismissed or forgotten. We are after all still humans. I've been doing this for years in the building of my relationships, but even I forget from time to time. We are after all still human. Bring this level of interaction to as many areas of your life as possible, and I'd hazard a guess that the quality of the connections you make increase 10 fold in short order.
We will probably always be challenged to do more with less. Modern economics and the emerging market trends are telling us this plainly enough. The notions of work-life balance may be nothing more than a ploy of HR. I just hope that we can retain the human element amidst this change and not just treat everything like demographics.
And with that, I relinquish my soap box... For now.