Resilience Bites #5 – Why Connection is Critical

There is much discussion in the media regarding ‘the cure versus the disease’ and which is better when it comes to government strategies to keep us safe or not. On the one hand we have people protesting against being separated from their loved ones and colleagues, and on the other we are hearing thanks for a whole country acting as one united team for adhering to restrictions (New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern) and we can’t forget the weekly Thursday evening ‘clapping for carers’ happening throughout the UK.

What all these interventions have in common is the need for connection, as the messages speak to our sense of belonging, and we know in our hearts that connection is critical for us as humans.

From our earliest of days 200,000 years ago when we lived in tribes, we learned that if we were cast out of our tribe we wouldn’t last very long.

Findings from neuroscience are challenging the order of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with social connection trumping physiological needs. Research by Matthew Lieberman has found that our need for connection and love outweigh everything. (if you are interested in this topic then we can highly recommend his book ‘Social – why our Brains are Wired to Connect’).

At work, we now find ourselves trying to make sense of a new virtual world of connection, where the mobile and laptop have become our best friends, yet still we yearn for that skin to skin, brain to brain, heart to heart and body to body connection – and that’s perfectly normal, it’s what we’ve been exquisitely designed for!

So how can we make the most of ‘being together-but-not-really-together’?

One positive already being experienced is that we are sharing more about ourselves by being in our space when we have online meetings. People can see our home worlds and will often recognise things we have in common. We’re becoming more tolerant of little people or pets joining in on our conversations!

One great gift that this experience has brought Clare is reconnecting with friends via video conferencing and resurrecting precious relationships that had almost been relegated to ‘Christmas Card exchange’ status.

A recent huddle with dearest of friends in Rome and New Jersey had us reminiscing, sharing, supporting and laughing our way through difficult and different times for all (we’ll be posting another resilience bites on laughter and smiles soon). We have committed to staying in touch more regularly and on this more intimate level, once we’re through the pandemic.

So what can we do to build and maintain a deeper connection? 

Here are some ideas we are actioning, and others have shared with us –

  • Sharing positives at the start of virtual meetings to build connection before getting into the business agenda – one thing that you are grateful for today, one thing you have learned, one story that has inspired you recently. The more we look for positives, the more we’ll find them and we need at least 3 times more positives to balance out the negatives
  • Holding a virtual happy hour or quiz night with friends (with or without alcohol!)
  • Putting pen to paper and writing an old-fashioned letter to bring a loved one up to date and to share what we appreciate about them (a gratitude letter). An act like this boosts the mood (and immune system!) for both writer and reader
  • Church services with people watching online and a virtual congregation with pictures of worshippers placed on each seat for the preacher to see and the cameras to focus on  
  • Grandparents running cooking classes using video conferencing or playing online hide and seek – one holds the laptop/mobile and the other hides, using the camera to do the seeking (it’s never too late to learn technology!) 

In summary

We are built for connection, not isolation and we have many ways to connect. We are limited only by our imagination. Learn what others are doing and use what works best for you.

A word of caution – please be mindful to notice yourself and how you are connecting or not – withdrawing too much from human connection is a warning sign – sometimes it takes effort to stay connected in whatever way you are able to.

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