One of our ongoing basic needs as a human being is to feel close to another person. We need to feel like we belong somewhere. We need to feel seen and appreciated, and to feel cared for, and these emotional instincts will always drive our reactions to people we connect with. In the context of slow living, how can we enhance our connections with others?
When you interact with someone in your community, you are connecting to the person, in that place, at that unique time. Be mindful to offer others respect and kindness, in light of that. Instead of emphasizing what you have to share or say, invest your energy in trying to understand their perspective. These days, anywhere you turn you will see someone plugged into a device that is distracting them from people they could be spending time with. When you are spending time with someone – whether it’s dinner with your immediate family, coffee with a professional connection, or a fun date with a friend you haven’t seen in a while – leave your phone in your pocket and engage with them! You’ll get more out of the time with them, and they’ll feel a deeper, more authentic connection with you. Or, if you’re reliant on virtual technology to stay connected, change it up. Invite a friend to coffee, happy hour, or a meal on a video conference that will feel more like an in-person conversation than a simple phone call or text.
The same principles apply to parenting, and navigating family dynamics in this fast-paced, globalized, high-tech society. Parents have a thousand decisions to juggle every day, related to modeling healthy choices, developing discipline, keeping up with homework, making sure that children are clean and fed, and a million other factors that contribute to raising a child. To become more engaged with their families, it’s important for parents to be aware of the moments they choose to be fully present with their kids, and allow there to be moments when they are not involved. Nobody can be engaged one hundred percent of the time, but part of becoming the best parent/spouse/sibling/child you can be is allowing yourself to have down time. The trick is to separate the two, and try not to multi-task.
People who make an intentional effort to slow down and connect with their families have demonstrated lower stress and anxiety, and feel that they are better able to juggle a career with their home life without feeling guilty or burned out. They report to being happier in their relationships with their spouse, children, family and friends, which contributes to a positive and contagious energy at their office.
One way to try this throughout the week is to approach your personal interactions with the interest of seeking connection and compassion, in a way that the other person will want/experience the same thing. Make a conscious effort to slow down your busy relationships, and encourage others to do the same. Inspire your kids to give up electronics for a set amount of time, and leave them in a room with creative materials to be “bored” for a while and exercise their imagination. Encourage your team mates to listen to their internal instincts to define who they are, instead of waiting for you or another leader to define who they should want to be. Appreciate your friends and family who have consistently shown you support, and share your gratitude with them.
When we feel connected and valued, we are more comfortable being ourselves, and we can embrace that more fully. What can you do today to encourage those around you to slow down and realize that they are connected and valued?