More Connected, More Detached

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My daughter recently celebrated her 12th birthday, and as we do every year, we hosted a sleepover weekend for 7 of her closest friends. This year’s theme was backyard camping. It was also, my husband and I decided, to be entirely tech-free.

As I texted families on what to bring, I also asked them what not to pack. “We ask that no electronics be brought to the party” was the request. Parents loved it! Surprisingly, so did the girls.

“That’s going to be so old school,” one of my daughter’s friends said. “We can pretend we are back in the day like when our parents were our age.”

Nope, I refused to let that comment make me feel old.

Another girl said, “we can play board games and have pillow fights. It will be so much fun!

What did happen was truly beautiful to witness. The girls were active, running in and out of the house, playing badminton in the backyard, painting fingers and toes, playing cards, goofing around with the dogs, hunting for frogs and other small outdoor animals … being kids. Plugged into nature and one another. Being present.

There was one dramatic episode (probably due to lack of sleep), and that offered a wonderful opportunity to come together, communicate effectively, listen respectfully and see viewpoints that hadn’t been seen.

My daughter’s closest friend, whom she has known since kindergarten when she lost her mom, finally opened up and shared a tearful story of her loss and longing. She was held by the total presence of her girlfriends, and this had allowed her to finally feel safe enough to talk about things, instead of digging into the distractions of video games or online banter.

All those years, she’d never said one word about this before,” my daughter told me.

As the weekend came to a close and we had said good-bye to everyone, my daughter looked up at me while we were relaxing on the couch together.

You know Mom, I feel more connected to my friends than I did before. It’s funny, it’s like I feel I really KNOW them in a whole new way.

When asked why she thought that might be, she responded, “I think it’s because we truly communicated and focused on just BEING together.

These days, we are more connected than ever before in history. We have social media, email, texts and instant messaging. Yet, studies show on the psychological and emotional side of things, we feel more lonely and detached than ever.

Analyzing the results of a recent 2019 Communication Trend Poll, behavioral scientist, Clarissa Silva, discussed her Detachment Theory as a way to categorize the behavioral trends around communication that came from the collected data. Originating from studies done around dating trends, Silva related the findings in the workplace around “ghosting” as proof of the trend moving into other arenas that affect various different relationships, not only romantic ones.

In her work, the concept of detachment refers to the choice to disengage as the more common practice in communication. Time, effort, discomfort, reliance on “quick” connection/response and ease of “moving on” that technology allows are sited as top reasons for this detachment.

The use of technology as the current #1 method for communication has made it more challenging for us to navigate good, old fashioned face-to-face conversations and points of connection.

Today, it’s easier than ever to simply not have the deeper or more challenging conversations. We also are losing touch with how to truly work together, get along and have relationships in real time. We simply, in many situations, aren’t required to, therefore, we are losing our skills in how to.

I believe one of Silva’s comments about the data findings around ghosting in the workplace says it all.

Isn’t it interesting that we stand up against bullying, shaming, inequality and political incorrectness, but in our direct relationships with other people, we are beginning to act more and more with total disregard.

When looking at the practice of ghosting, itself, it really boils down to a simple decision NOT to communicate at an important juncture in the relationship.

Some of the poll’s findings were:

85% said they ghosted to avoid confrontation
We avoid because we question internal capacity, as well as external tools & resources. We perceive we simply don’t have what it takes to address this.

60% said those they ghosted didn’t understand or appreciate them
Choosing not to speak up causes us to fill in the “gaps” and create a story that affects our behavior (leads to unfounded assumptions and behavior that isn’t in integrity with who we want to be).

37% of employers ghosted by interviewees started double booking interviews
Choosing to accept that ghosting “just happens” instead of creating protocol to address it, creates a behavior that then adds to the energy draw by having to manage possible overbooking of time and not being able to see to commitments.

18% of employers ghosted by interviewees assumed it was due to an unusual circumstance
I’m all about benefit of the doubt, but making the issue about this keeps the employer from asking the important question, “how could I have been a part of this decision and what does this say about what we are making ‘okay’ in our culture? “ Again, assumptive decisions don’t require clarification.

35% of employers who admit to ghosting interviewees blame the high volume of candidates and lack of time for their behavior
This is a perfect example of not taking responsibility for choices and deciding to play the “blame” game (victim mindset).

90% of people ghosted say they feel the ghosting reflects poorly on the character of the person doing the ghosting
This speaks to the stories we create about not the behavior, but the actual CHARACTER of the person, simply because they did not communicate. It also shows something else. If ghosting is becoming a common trend in communication, then chances are we are practicing it in our own lives in some way. If our judgment of it points to the character of another, then subconsciously when we ghost, ourselves, we are lowering the gavel on our own character, as well. This is something that will erode our view of self and plays on our perceived level of self worth.

So how do we begin to bring some awareness and helpful practice to reversing this trend of detachment, at least, in our own lives?

3 Comparison Trends in Communication

1. Exchanging Information (Transactional Communication) vs. Building Rapport (Relational Communication

Being intentional about not only “what” we want to say, but “how” we want to say it is important. Similarly, getting clear about our goal for the communication – am I looking at this as simply pushing information somewhere or would I like to take the opportunity to strengthen my relationship and add value to it as I share what I need to share? Taking time, beforehand to answer these questions allows us to approach communication in a more relational and less transactional fashion.

2. Expectational Sharing (Having an Agenda/Assumption) vs. Open/Neutral Sharing (Being Intentionally Curious)

Being open and curious (vs thinking we know how the communication will go or how the person we are communicating with will be) is always a great way to enter a conversation. It sets the tone for true listening to happen, as well as keeping the emotional triggers off the table. If we choose to simply share our “side” of things in a neutral, respectful manner, asking questions and welcoming the other person/people to do the same, we have the opportunity to share and learn.

3. Avoidance vs Using Our Valuable Voice (Speaking our Truth)

In the poll mentioned above, 85% of people chose not to communicate due to fear of confrontation. We think we do not have the proper tools or perceived power to see the conversation through, and no one has modeled or shown us how to have effective, connective crucial conversations.

Instead of viewing things this way, what if we saw using our voice in critical and challenging conversations not as confrontational, but as potentially transformational? As a way to BUILD rapport and better understanding? As a way to deepen and strengthen our relationships and sense of fulfillment through working things through? As a way to honor both our own truth, as well as that of the other?
Would this change how we approached the communication and how it ultimately impacted the outcome, at least for us?

When approaching crucial conversations, I like to use the following language tools:

  • “I” statements – speak from your own side of things – no projecting. Own your truth and do not assume the other person’s.
  • Leading with intention using heart-centered statements: “this relationship really matters to me …” “Having transparency and open dialogue is important to me …”
  • Brené Brown’s Rumble Language (from book Dare To Lead)

The story I’m telling myself about this is …
I’m curious about …
Tell me more …
That has not been my experience. May I explain?
I’m wondering …
Help me understand …
Walk me through that …
What’s your passion around or attachment to this?
Tell me why this doesn’t fit or doesn’t work for you?

It is clear we are in a time when, if we don’t begin to be more mindful and intentional in our interactions, it can lead to even more issues in our communications. As a collective, we have worked hard to move beyond World Wars, yet if we move the same tactics used in war into the boardrooms and the bedrooms, are we, really, in a better position? Quiet attacks on our relationships are simply a passive form of the aggressive behaviors we are wanting to evolve away from, as we look for more conscious ways to lead, not only ourselves but others.