Engagement is incredibly important to me. It matters in so many areas of life. Of course you can imagine that I will tell you that engagement matters in my marriage, you better believe it does! Focused conversation, feeling heard, and a give-and-take engaged conversation is what makes for a happy and successful marriage. Without that what is the point? I want to know that I am always paying attention and engaged in Chris’ life, that he is doing the same for me. When it becomes part of your every day, it is not hard, it becomes part of you.
Engaging with others also matters at work. Do you pay attention to your co-workers or employees? Do you listen and engage in their questions and ideas? Or do you come to a meeting with the decision already made and only bring them in so they think you care? When I read Seth Godin’s recent blog: “The hard work of understanding” I thought “Godin gets it right again.” The full excerpt of his post is here, (the bold lines for my own emphasis):
“Sometimes, we’re so eager to have an opinion that we skip the step of working to understand. Why is it the way it is? Why do they believe what they believe? We skip reading the whole thing, because it’s easier to jump to what we assume the writer meant. We skip engaging with customers and stakeholders because it’s quicker to assert we know what they want. We skip doing the math, examining the footnotes, recreating the experiment, because it might not turn out the way we need it to. We better hurry, because the firstest, loudest, angriest opinion might sway the crowd. And of course, it’s so much easier now, because we all own our own media companies.”
It makes me think that when we try to move through our lives so fast, we miss others along the way. We miss engaging with them, connecting with them, we miss understanding them. Instead of going through each day, each meeting, so fast, what if we focused, listened, connected, and engaged with others? I think it is doable, sometimes we just need to stop, breathe, and think about what experience we bring to those around us. Are you with me?
We all have an optimistic side…things will always get better, bucker up buckaroo, God has a plan, there is always good that comes out of tribulation… and many academics and doctors believe that this “faith gene/neuron” is wired into our brain (“You Are Not As Smart As You Think You Are” “Thinking Fast and Slow”) for good reason. It allows us to maintain our capacity to think and process AND survive in terrible situations. Our fast brain or heuristic brain is quick and efficient but often wrong and our slow brain or cognitive brain is lazy and will always defer to our fast brain and is often right. The challenge is that we need to spool up our slow mind to work – it’s like waking up a teenager early.
That said, I look cognitively at what life would be like if we did not have this faith gene and it is scary. Oscar Wilde states this simply, “The basis of optimism is sheer terror” and I agree with him. Without this faith gene, we would probably see a greater propensity to exit-the-gene-pool if you see no way out of a disastrous situation. Books like “Deep Survival,” “The Unthinkable,” and “Unbroken” are filled with stories where people faced terrible odds and survived driven by their “human spirit” (it should be noted that in all of these situations, never-give-up attitude is deemed the one unifying reason for their survival).
Why is the faith gene contextual on a blog about engagement?
Simple – I tend to believe that this faith gene also is the reason for our narcissistic behavior. And when this behavior is amplified without the correct checks and balances, the community will inevitably collapse.
Engaging is difficult. It forces us to listen, think, understand and often reconsider our assumptions, positions or beliefs AND potentially change them. But when we do this wonderful work, we do rise up better than what we were before we engaged. This rising helped build towns and specialize our communal workforce. Towns became cities and tribes became populations. Engagement was the catalyst for farming, poetry, engineering, art. It transformed word of mouth to written history. It discovered e, PI and zero. It overcame nature by developing aqueducts, grain storage and the curing of meat. And for all the good engaging did, it also caused wars, tyranny and genocide.
Now that we’ve been doing this civilization thing for a couple thousand years, we have COMPLETELY leveraged our ability to communicate in the last 100 years with trains, planes, automobiles (yes, an underhanded tribute to the movie), telegraphs, radios, televisions and phones. Yet in the last 30 years, the internet has completely globally scaled the leveraged model with emails, text messages, blogs, Facebook/Instagram/twitter yet these tend to be simplex declaration (one way) versus duplex communicating (face 2 face, phone). Why then when we have the ability to video chat FREE via Skype (something inconceivable 25 years ago) do we still prefer to email or text or Facebook or Instagram or Tweet?
Because we don’t have to engage with these forms of communication; because we prefer a one way conversation; because one way conversations are not difficult and unchallenged; because one way conversations perpetuate our narcissism; because no one can challenge us and sometimes embellish our narcissism with false or silent validity
Telling a white lie on Facebook is easy. Telling a white lie to a person in front of you is not because we telegraph our insincerity.
So, so true. I have often thought about the one way communication/conversation and how much easier it is to share, and we do not feel as put on the spot as in person. Communication has definitely shifted due to the Internet + technology. Thank you for sharing!