Connecting and Listening Better

Sorry for a lack of updates lately. My grandparents have not been doing so well and I’ve been giving them a lot of my spare time, leaving little time for personal tasks like blogging. No regrets, though. I’m heartbroken that they’re sick, but I’ve really enjoyed spending quality time with them and the rest of my family.

With a night to myself, I watched a few TED talks from some of my favorite speakers, and this video from Julian Treasure caught my interest.

In today’s internet-driven, always connected world where we’re so used to instant satisfaction, we look for ways to digest information rapidly. We don’t listen for context and we don’t think critically, we just hear and acknowledge. Stephen Covey says “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” It’s hard to do that if you’re just listening to find sound bites you can play off of to bounce the conversation back to you.

In the world of constant connections, deep and intimate connections often get overlooked in favor of something more interesting, more entertaining, more “now.” As an example, when I say something funny on facebook I get a lot of comments, likes, etc. But a status about my grandparents got very few, and mostly by my closest friends outside of facebook. I’m not insulted by it – it’s a factor of how people use facebook. It’s just not meant for deeper connections. I wouldn’t consider many of my facebook friends “close.” I don’t know how anyone would keep up with 560 “close” friends. Obviously some of my facebook friends are close friends, and I have many close friends who aren’t on facebook at all. Whether they’re on it or not, my best interactions with my true friends don’t come from facebook.

The point I’m trying to make is not that facebook should be used to facilitate close relationships. Don’t get disappointed when the same people who laugh at your funny statuses don’t cry with your sad ones – it’s just not going to happen. The point is not to get so tied up in the world of instant gratification that you overlook connections in the real world. Try a deeper connection. Try listening. For information, for context, for feeling.

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How can I help you?

Social media has become such a powerful tool in this century – but unfortunately it’s often used for trivial things like sharing what kind of sandwich you just ate or arguing about grammar. I almost abandoned my facebook account last week because I was so tired of seeing bad news, gripes, and pointless arguments. It had gotten to the point where I wondered whether social media was really enriching my life or just helping me procrastinate.

Then I experimented. I asked my friends what was going on in their life that was GOOD. A 40 comment thread followed, with multiple friends sharing their good news, congratulating others on their good news, and interacting with people they didn’t know in a POSITIVE way. We even jointly helped a friend pick out a name for her soon-to-be son! I know this probably wasn’t a hugely profound experience for many involved, but it renewed my sense of the good that digital interaction is capable of providing, but doesn’t always deliver on. I’d like to see more interactions like that, and I’m changing the way I use social media to facilitate it. I’d like to use my social media presence for something good. So many of my friends have shown support for this blog and for me personally through social media, and so many of my friends are out there pursuing their dreams as artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs and using facebook/twitter/etc. as a big part of it. They inspire me every day with what they do to follow their passions. I’d like to start off by using my social media reach to help those friends of mine. If there is something you’d like me to share with my friends/followers/readers that will help make your dreams come true or support your cause, I would love to pass the word along for you.

As a disclaimer, there are limits to what I will share. I will not violate the trust of my friends by recommending something that I don’t believe in. My friends know my personality, values, and convictions so I don’t envision any problem with this (we are friends for a reason, after all!) but I just wanted to make sure it was stated. I also don’t want this blog or my facebook/twitter/google+/linkedin/other TBD social media to become one big advertisement for my friends – that defeats the purpose of trying to help because it dilutes the message and people will tune it out, so I can promise my friends that I will NOT make these kinds of updates constantly. But at least once a week I’d like to help my friends out by sharing something that they’re passionate about with the world.

First come, first serve – how can I help share your passion with the world? It can be sharing your blog/website/portfolio/music with my friends on a social network or connecting you to someone I may know who’s influential in the topic you’re passionate about, and anywhere in between. Send me a message in one of my many social media or email inboxes and let’s get started! Don’t be shy, and pay it forward for others if you can. I encourage ALL of my friends, even if they are not particularly interested in the particular topic of a post, to check them out anyway – even if you’re not in love with the topic, some of these folks are so in love with it they can make you love it, and if not they can inspire you to pursue what you love.

Communicating in the Age of Technology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alright, I have to call my sister out a little here. She read my blog post about common blunders people make when using their cell phones for email. Her response was “This doesn’t really pertain to me. Besides, I was brought up in the age of technology being integrated with social etiquette.” I wholly disagreed with the second part.

For background, my sister is 22 (or something), and when we’re not face to face, we communicate almost exclusively by text (when she hasn’t dropped her phone in the bathtub) or facebook chat. If I call her, there’s a pretty good chance she won’t answer her phone, and an equally good chance that she will text me when she sees my missed call rather than call me back. I’m using her as an example, but she’s not the only one who does this. I have friends who I haven’t spoken to on the phone in years, but who I communicate with frequently. So, I have to ask, is this an age where technology is integrated with social etiquette, or an age where technology replaces social etiquette?

If you’ve ever pretended to talk on your cell phone to avoid an awkward social situation, you’ve replaced social etiquette with technology. If you’ve ever held a serious conversation (e.g., a breakup, a confrontation, a gushing of feelings) via text message, guess what? You’ve replaced social etiquette with technology. Hiding behind technology can make you brave, and sometimes that can be a good thing – but eventually you will have to deal with face to face confrontations, emotions, and situations. Will you be ready?

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a facebook addict. I’d also admit that facebook can be very useful in building relationships, especially if you’re shy. You can get a good glimpse into someone’s personality and the interests you share if you interact with them on facebook. But, if that’s your only method of interaction, the relationship probably isn’t doing that much for either of you, and it’s probably not growing.

Technology can be an aid, or it can be a crutch. It’s all in how you use it. But people will notice how you use it. If they call you, and you text back, they’ll notice. If they see you constantly clutching your phone, but you don’t respond to their text messages, they’ll know it’s deliberate. Don’t let being a technophile leave you debilitated in the face of real world challenges as simple as speaking to your friends or colleagues outside of email or facing an uncomfortable situation. No matter how much you avoid it, you will have to deal with it sometime. Will you be ready?