“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
― Carl Gustav Jung
Recently, my wife and I needed to communicate with our 30-year-old nephew. Since we didn’t know his phone number and couldn’t text him, we did what many people our age would do. We sent him an email. Days went by without an answer and so we emailed him again. Once more, no answer. It suddenly dawned on me that my wife was connected to him on Facebook and so I suggested she send him a direct message asking him to read his emails. Lo and behold, he responded within minutes with, “I’m sorry, Aunt Linda. I rarely look at my emails.”
Duh. He’s 30 and to a 30-year-old email is the same as stone tablets. In fact, it’s probably worse.
Of course, I am not all that different in my personal communication preferences. I have been at Avaya for nearly a year and I couldn’t tell you my telephone number. I am occasionally required to add it to an online registration form, but other than that, it’s not something I think about. I also couldn’t tell you the phone numbers of anyone I work with. Even if I did know their numbers, I still wouldn’t call them.
This isn’t because I am anti-social. I happily communicate with coworkers, customers, and business partners every workday. However, it’s rarely by telephone. Yes, I still use email, but more often, my communication takes place face-to-face over video calls. And not video calls where I leave my camera muted. I always turn my camera on and will leave it on even if everyone else on the call is too shy to show their faces.
That wasn’t always the case. A few years ago, I would have been one of those unseen faces. Of course, that was before two major changes in my life – and the lives of nearly all of us. It took a worldwide pandemic and working from home to make me realize how important video was to my work life, personal life, and most importantly, sanity. The need to connect became overwhelming and thank goodness I had the technology to virtually put myself out in the world when I was physically unable to do so.
I am a big fan of Brené Brown and stay current with her podcast, “Unlocking Us.” In a recent episode, she spoke with Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce Perry about their new book, “What Happened to You?” The entire podcast is worth listening to, but Dr. Perry’s views on relationships really hit home with me. I subsequently did some research on him and found this powerful quote:
“The most important property of humankind is the capacity to form and maintain relationships. These relationships are absolutely necessary for any of us to survive, learn, work, love and, procreate. Human relationships take many forms but the most intense, most pleasurable and most painful are those relationships with family, friends and loved ones.”
It took me far too long to recognize my need for relationships, but they have now become part of nearly everything I do. Whether it’s with my wife, family, neighbors, friends, or coworkers, the need to connect has become one of my primary drivers. Yes, the ways I connect are different with each relationship and type of relationship (family vs. coworker), but I am no longer able to skate through life as a passive observer. I need to put myself out there and be willing to accept whatever comes back at me. Love and acceptance are high on my hoped-for list, but I have learned that suffering, and raw, painful truths are just as important.
So, what does any of this have to do with emails vs. telephone calls vs. video collaboration? It’s all about connecting in the way(s) that bring us the level of relationship we need and crave. For me, a telephone call no longer takes where I need to go. For my 30-year-old nephew, email is practically worthless. That’s not to say that they still don’t serve important purposes. It’s just that in my current state of being, I know what works and doesn’t work for me to stay sane during insane times.
I want to end with one more quote from Dr. Perry:
“For years mental health professionals taught people that they could be psychologically healthy without social support, that “unless you love yourself, no one else will love you.” The truth is, you cannot love yourself unless you have been loved and are loved. The capacity to love cannot be built in isolation.”
As I approach the waning years of my career, I hope to spend the bulk of my creative energy finding better ways to use technology to help people build, grow, and maintain strong relationships. While a computer screen or mobile app will never replace true face-to-face interaction, it can help when physical contact is not possible. For me, video is the key to survival in today’s disconnected world.
Thank you for reading. Keep in touch.