“To thrive, real human connection, the kind where we share something important and both walk away feeling uplifted, is essential.”
It had been a long day of work and meetings. Needing something to tide me over until dinner, I’m pulling out brown-rice crackers and hummus when my phone rings. Up pops a photo of my longtime friend Nancy, who now lives 400 miles away in Chicago.
“Nancy!” I smile into my iPhone. “I’m so glad you’re calling me!”
There’s a pause. “Did I actually call you? I meant to text.” She sounds sheepish.
We both laugh but proceed to capitalize on the unexpected opportunity to catch up. She tells me how she’s coping with a challenging work situation, and I fill her in on my latest parenting dilemma. We talk about our respective families and mutual friends and reminisce about high school days. Hummus and crackers long abandoned, we end up talking for almost 45 minutes, which satisfies on a deep level. After a final “Love you,” I hang up with a heightened appreciation for Nancy and her decades-long presence in my life, and I feel seen, heard, and loved.
If there’s one thing I learned from writing Full Heart Living, it’s that happier people connect with others. They spend time with people they love and who love them in return. Not only do they soak up the gifts of interpersonal connection—feeling seen, heard, accepted, and celebrated—they also give back. Providing those things to others instills a sense of purpose and value. To feel fulfilled, we need to both receive and give.
In this age of electronics, pundits often claim, “We are more connected than ever.” But that statement warrants deconstructing. What are we connecting to? Electronic forms of communication indeed offer a quick and efficient means of relaying certain kinds of information. If I’m going to be a few minutes late for meeting a friend for coffee, for instance, a text feels unobtrusive and immediate, possibly more considerate, even, than a phone call. And for getting a message out to a large group of people, social media can’t be beat. Yet in this age of ubiquitous electronic connection, loneliness is actually increasing.
It seems to me that it’s important to emphasize what electronics connect us with: information. Only true interpersonal activities can provide human connection.
We humans are highly attuned to facial cues and voice inflection; it’s part of our evolution, as it helps us deescalate conflict and foster cooperation. To thrive, real human connection, the kind where we share something important and both walk away feeling uplifted, is essential.
Using electronic forms of communication calls us to do so with mindfulness and intention. Why don’t we try to find a way to use electronics to facilitate deeper, more satisfying human connections, instead of relying on them for some kind of replacement?
Perhaps we need to pick up the phone more often, chat with the neighbors, smile at the cashier and those we pass on the street, and talk about things that matter.
That one accidental phone call helped develop a “new” tradition: Whereas we had relied for years on email, text, and Facebook to remain connected, Nancy and I now talk occasionally by phone. And such connections help me feel happier.
TODAY’S CONVERSATION SPARKS
Have a conversation with a loved one during which both of you explore the following questions. Listen deeply, and speak from the heart.
- In what ways do you overuse electronic media?
- What can you do today to connect more deeply with others?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Tom Glaser is a Minneapolis-based psychologist, life coach, speaker, and author of Full Heart Living: Conversations with the Happiest People I Know. You’ll find two of three, new mini-documentaries on Resilience Following Trauma on the Full Heart Living YouTube channel. A game based on his first book, “Full Heart Living Conversation Sparks,” which fosters deeper connections, is now available on Amazon.com.