100 years ago, a person might expect to receive two letters in a month. Now, the Sunday newspaper alone holds more information than a person of that era might have experienced in a year. Never before have we had so many modalities or methods of communication. While we experience many of the joys and capabilities that the instant access to information and communication provides, we also need to be aware of how we share our time with perhaps the most important aspect of life: our relationships. Relationships bring both the greatest joys and sorrows to what we call life, but we know so well what a disconnect with those closest to us feels like. My question is, does it have to be this way?
As I watch conflict arise out of misunderstanding or a lack of investment into one another, I realize that merely communicating information or words – whether text, email, twitter, telephone, shouting – does not necessarily create understanding. A key skill we are losing is the ability to stop, focus on one person, and listen. We have an avalanche of information, overwhelming all sensory mechanisms in the human body. Never in the history of mankind have the senses been so attacked. Is it having an impact on quality of relationships? Is this hyper-connectivity a factor in the breakdown of the family, friendships, and the workplace? As people focus in on the urgency of communicating with everyone else and connecting to updated information, they isolate themselves, texting at the dinner table, emailing before bed – where does it stop?
Is there less one-on-one time, just listening and talking with a significant other without any other interruptions?
One of the most exciting things we can bring to our relationships is a focused, listening ear. It lights up a relationship, and is probably the greatest respect we can pay somebody. Whether we listen to a three year old that wants to babble, while we sit on the floor looking at her intently, or with an 80 year old man sharing his memories from a time long gone, we find a quiet richness that isn’t accessible from the twenty-second news feed. These important qualities require intention if they are to be preserved and built upon. Without intentionality, we get carried away by the tyranny of the urgent, which is often not as important as sitting with a three year old and listening to a day through her eyes, finding out what her world looks like. Listening with understanding fulfills one of the greatest human needs of acceptance and affirmation.
Although we have much emphasis on the valuable resource of money – how to spend it how to save it – a more precious resource that is often overlooked is time. Growing in the skill of prioritizing someone over the distractions and pressures, offering undivided attention, and listening to understand, will – I guarantee it – greatly enrich all of our relationships and satisfaction in the course of a day. The subsequent challenge we face is the tug of war between being self-centered or people-centered. As we take our eyes off of ourselves and reach out to others, we find our life takes on a great meaningful purpose for which everyone is searching.
Deep in our bucket of meaningful needs is the desire to be significant – to do something significant, to be significant to somebody else. As we invest undivided attention into those closest to us, helping to fill their need, we will see a different sort of response. While it takes two people’s investment for any relationship to grow, as we strengthen the one-on-one connection, that so common occurrence of disconnect will begin to fade, and intimacy will return.
© 2017 Leadership by Design, LLC | Would you like to use this article on your blog or website? You can, as long as you include the following complete verbiage: “Dr. Jim Schroeder is the President and founder of Leadership by Design, Inc., a consulting firm that works with and teaches organizations and individuals how to bring personal and business strategies to life by focusing on people and relationships.
Dr. Jim Schroeder is the Founder of Leadership by Design. He has been writing about leadership and organizational growth for over 30 years.
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