There’s no doubt that social connection is essential to our work and personal lives. According to this scientific article by Emma Seppälä, Ph.D, Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and author of The Happiness Track, research studies have revealed:
- Social connection improves physical health and mental and emotional well-being.
- People that have satisfying relationships with family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.
- By the same token, those who are not socially connected or more prone to anxiety, depression, and isolation.
According to Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and author of several #1 New York Times bestsellers including The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly:
A sense of social connection is one of our fundamental human needs. . . Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment.
We may think we want money, power, fame, beauty, eternal youth or a new car, but at the root of most of these desires is a need to belong, to be accepted, to connect with others, to be loved.
Social connection can arise when a friend gets your joke, a coworker offers congratulations or when your spouse gives you a hug. Other instances might include much-needed help when a friend offers to pick your kids up from school, emotional support when someone expresses empathy for your tough day, advice or different perspective, or validation when you’re going through a tough time.
Unfortunately, research reveals that loneliness is on the rise and social connectedness is significantly declining, according to Emma Seppälä, Ph.D.’s research. Even when we watch or read the news these days, we might notice becoming increasingly disconnected from others.
While the widespread use of technology and social media certainly has its benefits, reliance on technological communication might also mean we are losing the ability to effectively communicate with each other in person.
For one thing, genuine empathy can’t be conveyed in a text message or social media post. By definition, empathy is putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. To effectively communicate empathy, words alone are only a small part. It requires tone of voice, body language, and even physical touch.
Social Connections at Work and in Business
In a recent Forbes article, Carol Kinsey Goman, international keynote speaker and author of The Silent Language of Leaders conducted an interview with Ulrich Kellerer, leadership expert and international speaker, on whether technology has killed face-to-face communication.
According to Ulrich, “when it comes to effective business communication, over-reliance on technology at work can be a hindrance, especially when it ends up replacing face-to-face, human interaction.”
As he says, “connection is critical to building business relationships.” Likewise, according to Ulrich, interpersonal communication is vital for a business to function internally as face-to-face communication drives productivity. He emphasizes:
Having a personal connection builds trust and minimizes misinterpretation and misunderstanding. With no physical cues, facial expressions/gestures, or the ability to retract immediately, the risk of disconnection, miscommunication, and conflict is heightened.
Similarly, according to Goman, “in the midst of a digital age, face-to-face is still the most productive and powerful communication medium.” She explains:
People are interpreting the meaning of what you say only partially from the words you use. They get most of your message (and all of the emotional nuance behind the words) from vocal tone, pacing, facial expressions and body language. And, consciously or unconsciously, you are processing the instantaneous nonverbal responses of others to help gauge how well your ideas are being accepted.
In addition, people remember much more of what they see than what they hear — which is one reason why you tend to be more persuasive when you are both seen and heard.
Social connection at home
At home these days, families might be spending more evenings staring at their phones than each other. And as this study observed, if one person in a relationship uses technology more than the other can result in feelings of insecurity.
Likewise, according to Brené Brown in her #1 New York Times bestseller Daring Greatly:
We are hardwired to connect with others. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering. One such moment is not that important, but if you’re always choosing to turn away, then trust erodes in a relationship—very gradually, very slowly.
What We Can Do to Increase Social Connection
It’s important to carve out time to foster our most meaningful relationships. We can create as many opportunities as possible to check in, exchange ideas, and lend a supportive ear when needed.
You might assess to see if you have friends or family members who you feel comfortable to be around, who give you a sense you can tell them anything and can help you solve problems.
You might make sure to contact these people regularly. Commit to spending a certain amount of time together without distractions from digital devices. Make sure to tell them you appreciate their support and friendship.
If you feel you lack such people in your life, you might take action to develop your network by taking a class or joining the group to meet and develop relationships with people who share your interests.
Just as we might do to stay healthy with diet and exercise, it’s equally, if not more, important to develop and nurture social connections that are so essential for our well-being.
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