Posts Tagged 'interpersonal interaction'

Conservation of Energy

conservationofenerty

In physics, the law of energy conservation states that the total energy of an isolated system remains constant. It can’t be created or destroyed; rather, it transforms from one form to another. Our understanding of the universe relies on this principle.

It often (not always) applies to people and relationships, too.

If you escalate (cut off in traffic, angry at the gate agent, frustrated at your boss), you’ve just added (negative) energy to a conversation.

If you escalate (enthusiasm, a hug, encouraging words), you’ve just added (positive) energy to a conversation.

Once the energy is added, it has to go somewhere. Often, the person you’re engaging with throws it right back, or even increases it. The problem with taking offense is that it’s really hard to figure out what to do with it after you’re done using it. Better to just leave it on the table and walk away. Umbrage untaken quietly disappears. A talented, mature person might take your negative energy and de-escalate it, or even swallow it and permit the conversation to calm down or end. But don’t count on it.

You can ‘win’ a conversation by overwhelming your opponent with energy they can’t handle. But of course, they’re not your opponent and you don’t really win. Being aware of the energy you add or take from interactions is a sophisticated technique that radically changes the outcomes of the conversations that fill your day. Add the good stuff, absorb the bad stuff and focus on the outcomes, not the bravado. Winning isn’t the point.

Organization’s Effects

artguy

If you take a group of people, a subgroup of the larger population, and expose them to focused messages again and again, you will start to change their point of view. If you augment those messages with exposure to other members of the group, the messages will begin to have ever more impact.

We generally tend to align ourselves with those we’re around. We don’t fully understand why. There is a lot of psychology we know, and then other stuff we can’t explain. Yawning, for instance, can be statistically shown to be contagious. It has been studied for years, yet we don’t know why it happens.

Once a group starts to become aligned, and starts acting like a tribe, the messages of the tribe will become self-reinforcing. When someone is born into that tribe, there is a very high probability she will never know the difference. It is simply her common sense about the way the world works.

Programmed.

Happiness, Part xx8, Other People

happinessothersrainumbrella

We’ve already explored happiness topics ranging from drugs to business. Perhaps the most vital, if obvious, piece has only been touched on up to now.

The Portuguese island of Madeira, known most for its excellent wine, is part of a volcanic archipelago that sits in the Atlantic Ocean far off the southwest coast of Portugal. It’s actually closer to northwest Africa, and loosely associated with the Canary Islands as a stopping point for transatlantic journeys.

One small island in the group has such steep cliffs jutting out of the ocean that it actually looks a bit like a cylinder. At the top is a several-acre plateau on which are grown the most prized grapes that go into Madeira wine. On this plateau lives only one large animal: an ox whose job is to plow the field. The only way to the top is a winding and narrow path. There is no way an ox could navigate the path, so when the ox dies, how is it replaced? A baby ox is carried on the back of a worker up the mountain, where it spends the next forty years plowing the field alone. If you are moved by this story, ask yourself why. One ox, alone, in a field on the plateau of a small rock island in the middle of the ocean.

Very little that is positive is solitary. When was the last time you laughed uproariously? The last time you felt indescribable joy? The last time you sensed profound meaning and purpose? The last time you felt enormously proud of an accomplishment? Even without knowing the particulars of these high points of your life, there is one thing I’ll bet they had in common: all of them took place around other people. Simply put, other people is the best antidote to the downs of life and the single most reliable up.

Recent research on human evolution points to the importance of positive relationships. Studies of the big social brain, hive emotions, and group selection persuade me that positive relationships are a basic element of well-being.

It’s really pretty simple, except the catch is that nasty tendency we sometimes have to not want to be around people when things aren’t going well. It’s a downward spiral.

The other tricky aspect, is being around the right people. If you spend time with someone who brings you down or causes you stress, even if through no particular fault of his own, then at minimum you need others in your life who provide the type of companionship that makes the rest work. It turns out we’re pretty complicated socially, yet we produce anxiety and ultimately unhappiness because we don’t always set our lives up in a way that takes care of this truth, or honor and act on behalf of the changes we undergo throughout life. When someone connects and makes you feel good, pay attention, as it’s you trying to tell yourself something. Recognizing the importance of that is essential to not just happiness, but to fundamentally taking care of yourself.

 

An Unselfish To Do List

dancerssilBy their nature, most to-do lists are self-focused. This is a different kind of list; here are four things you could do today for other people:

1. Make another person feel they belong. 

The superficial greetings that make the greeter feel good can diminish into the reality of a lack of connection for a person who is new or in an unfamiliar (uncomfortable) environment.

Maybe it’s the guy in accounting who always eats lunch alone. Maybe it’s the guy from shipping who always stands at the edge of a group. It’s easy to spot people who feel hesitant and out of place. Pick one. Say hi. Say something nice. Say, or do, something that makes them feel a slightly bigger connection – to your company, to a group, or just to you.

They may not show it, but they’ll definitely appreciate the gesture.

2. Make a person feel good about what they do.

Rarely does a restaurant delivery guy hope to make his career delivering food. Rarely does a sales clerk or entry-level manual laborer hope to stay in that job forever. High-level workers tend to attract high-level attention. Lower level workers often feel invisible; an unseen, unnoticed, unappreciated cog in the machine. Such a shame since everyone really is important and deserves to be treated with respect.

Pick someone in your company, or elsewhere. Doesn’t matter. Don’t just offer a throwaway, “Thanks.” Say thanks and mean it. Or give a sincere compliment. Or ask a question that shows respect for what that person does. For that moment, make sure the other person knows you see and appreciate them as a person, not just as an employee.

3. Offer a person hope. 

Have you ever met a person who didn’t dream of something better? We all have dreams and hopes, but sometimes it’s really hard to hold on to them. Sometimes all we need is for another person to fan our flickering flames of hope. To somehow show us that there is a way to get from here to there.

Buy a piece of art from an artist. Assign a small project to an employee you know hopes to be promoted; give her a chance, however small, to show her stuff. Ask a small supplier to provide a quote; give them a chance to earn your business. Really listen to someone with the intent to understand and get to know them. Engage them in a meaningful conversation, or include them (see above) in an important activity.

The best way to offer someone hope is to show you believe in them, even when – especially when – they don’t quite believe in themselves.

4. Give to a person in need. 

Years ago, the first time I went to Europe, a well-meaning person told me not to make eye contact with beggars. “Once you make eye contact, they’re all over you.”

A while later I was with a friend in NYC, and when riding the subway I noticed she gave a little money to a man who walked through the car with his hat in hand. She also gave money to people sitting against buildings holding torn, faded cardboard signs declaring their need. When I asked about it, she said, “If a man is desperate enough to say, ‘Can you help me?’ how could I ever say no? He’s asking me for help.” She paused. “Plus, hopefully for a few moments they’ll feel a little less alone. Hopefully they’ll feel like a few people really do care about them.” Humbling.

I’d normally be the first one to say we do these things to make ourselves feel better. It’s true, but on this day I was reminded by a person with a bigger heart than me that there is still a real person on the other end of that transaction who benefits.

Try it. Give directly. Give to a person who asks. Give a dollar here, or five dollars there.

To you and me it may be little, but to a person in need it could be a lot. To a person in need our small gestures could make all the difference.

The thing about all of these benevolent acts is they will each make you feel better. Even if you do them for your own selfish reasons the good you do is still positive energy in the world. We’re all in this together.

Infrastructure

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No man is an island. Yet we aren’t all truly connected either. The new age of electronic connectedness provides many of the components of feeling connected — enough that we can tranquilize ourselves that we are — but when it comes to interpersonal interaction there’s less true connecting going on than ever, in part because of the facades we create with media, not to mention our obsession with our mobile devices.

What can a man live without? There’s a short list of a few things required for survival.

Okay, but let’s move beyond mere survival. What do we need to flourish? That’s a much more complex issue.

Infrastructure. We need the pieces in place that help open doors and smooth the way for us to overcome the forces in ourselves and the world that try to keep us standing pat, retreating in fear. We need nurturing of just the right kind. We need to be educated, but not just in the way the schools teach (how to conform and be good consumers and workers). We need a supportive social network. A real one, not just some friends who are hiding behind their own facades or too scared to fully engage or take risks on our behalf. We need to see close up examples of real initiative and leadership. We need to be coached by someone who shows up as credible and sincerely caring about our best interests, not crippled with fear and self absorption. And we need the humility and honesty to be willing to receive these gifts.

We need love. Real love. Not just the emotion that someone would be bummed if we weren’t part of their life anymore, but people who are secure enough in themselves to act in a manner that we learn to be secure in and love ourselves. We need to love ourselves, and respect ourselves. Otherwise we can’t truly help anyone. And if we can’t help anyone what good are we?

We all need that infrastructure, to be connected.

It has to start somewhere. You can be the one to reach out. You should reach out. You may help yourself most of all.



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