We all find ourselves in one of two buckets right now. Either separated from people we love and can't see them or with the people we love in a non-stop way that we usually reserve for holidays or weekends. Either way, this unprecedented time is testing our ability to show up for each other and forcing us all to reconsider what it takes to sustain the fragile and essential fabric of relationships that we so often take for granted.
Both situations demand that we step up beyond the superficial connectivity that we have become accustomed to on social media. When we lose the face-to-face and heart-to-heart contact that truly connects us or we are drowning in so much contact that we are unprepared for the demands, it is easy to withdraw, right when we need to lean in. Adapting to this new world with equal doses of separation and overwhelming contact requires us to become more human.
Ironically it is a virus that has pushed us to realize our vital oneness. Everything touches everything as we have fewer degrees of separation than we ever imagined.
How can we use this reset time to affirm and support our capacity to relate and show up for each other? Here are a few suggestions to begin. Even if you just choose to practice with one of these, I guarantee that it will turn you into a better version of yourself.
1. Count Your Attention As Carefully As You Do Your Money
At a time when our financial future has never felt more uncertain, we should reconsider the profound value of our attention. Truly, what we pay attention to multiplies and - in many ways - it is an even more limited resource than our money.
Thinking about how we allocate our attention when people are far away and alone, or are around you 24/7 will help you make choices about spending your focus on what matters. The truth about most social media is that at best, it is a distraction and at worst, it is killing your brain’s capacity to fully attend to your life.
Choose a specific time each day or even once a week when you put away your devices and choose a task that requires all of your attention. It could be cleaning out a closet or organizing a meal with friends, or spending some solitary time on a walk. Just do it wholly, without interruption or distractions. Notice what happens with your thoughts when your attention is undivided. Even more gratifying notice how other people respond when you give them the gift of your full attention.
2. Take More True Emotional Risks
Most of us are risk averse when it comes to matters of the heart. This is why so many things that need to be shared are never uttered. It also explains how so many relationships expire long before their work is done.
Staying connected is only possible through the work of taking emotional risks, of having your heart out there on your sleeve. This seems to be especially true in times of crisis, when fear runs high. Rather than putting on a strong face, taking the risk to reflect our true emotions brings you close. Other people, even our most intimate people don’t know what is in your heart unless you show it. Hooking up is oddly less risky than asking someone out.
Defying the possibility that you might be rejected or that someone might not understand what you are trying to say and extending yourself anyway is how we know who we are as our most basic human selves.
So resolve to try this bold and daring act once a week. Take a risk with your heart and see what happens. I guarantee it will surprise you.
3. Cultivate Dialogue
Collectively, we are losing the art of conversation - the very basic human capacity to express ourselves and listen face-to-face; the exchange of meaning that happens in an intimate conversation. Everything from witnessing the other person’s facial expression and tone of voice, to the light in their eyes teaches us how to feel and how to respond. Replacing this with cursory text, chat, and email messaging eliminates the contact that cultivates our capacity to empathize.
There is no better time to rethink all of the great technology available to us.
- Instead of texting, plan to video chat.
- Instead of posting on Instagram, write someone a heartfelt letter by email. Take time away from news feeds and talk on the phone, yes your phone still works.
- Commit to at least one real conversation, every day, or at least in a week.
Stretch your ability to listen and see what you can hear behind the words. Gaze on the face speaking to you, notice the blinking or twitching that might happen when someone reveals themselves.