Shiny happy people

Shiny happy people

“Spotto!” my daughter screams at the top of her lungs as we round the corner. Sure enough a lovely yellow hatchback speeds past us in the opposite direction and my daughter wins the award for spotting the highest number of yellow cars on that trip.

I always thought that yellow cars were a bit of a novelty and car manufacturers only made a few of this very bright colour. Not so! Since I’ve been playing Spotto with the kids I have seen more yellow cars in the last month than I have seen in my entire life.

Why is that?

Our Reticular Activating System (RAS) allows our brain to focus on things that are important and filters out unimportant messages. Perhaps the most important function of the RAS is its control of consciousness; it is believed to control sleep, wakefulness, and the ability to consciously focus attention on something. In addition, the RAS acts as a filter, dampening down the effect of repeated stimuli such as loud noises, helping to prevent the senses from being overloaded.

The brain only knows what is important when you tell it so. In other words, the brain focuses on what you focus on. For example, ever notice how when you are angry you have more frustration on the road, find more things to complain about and make everyone around you angry too?

I have a theory about how this scientific rule can apply to networking and to life. And this is just one example, but a good one to start with.

If our subconscious mind can select what we see and experience via our RAS then it stands to reason that we would attract or notice happy people if we focused on finding happiness or consciously looked for happy people. Rather than simply acting on the Law of Attraction and focusing on the outcome, we are looking for people who embody the qualities or the skills we are wanting to emulate. We are manufacturing a happy environment.

We all know that person at an event or party who is the life of the party. You know, the one everyone loves to be around, the one who is always happy. What I have learned in my observations of thousands of people over the years is that there are two types of “life of the party” type people. There are people who may be the life of the party this week, who are loud and rambunctious and hilarious in many instances.

Sadly these are people who are loud in order to cover up their fear of being exposed and who make fun of others to deflect the attention from themselves. These people are funny one week and often end up being considered boorish the next.

The other type of “life of the party” person are those who are genuinely happy to see you. Those who are genuinely curious about what you have to say and can find the good in any situation. They are fun to be around because they can tell a story with intelligent good humour rather than insulting comedic sarcasm. What if we consciously focused on looking for and unearthing these people?

Surely, if we made a regular effort to find more of these people within our targeted groups, we would notice more of them. If many people made a conscious effort to find these people then many would notice more of them and maybe we would just tip the balance and create more happiness. It would certainly create stronger and happier networks, which can only be a good thing.

Taking this one step further, what if we consciously looked for people with similar values about the planet, politics and family? The possibilities are endless.

So while you get busy looking for shiny happy people, I’m off to find some more shiny yellow cars!

Do you make ripples or waves?

Do you make ripples or waves?

Like it or not, you have a reputation. A personal one and a professional one. All the messages you put out, on the Internet, in person, on paper, combine to form a brand image to all who cross your path. Networking is not just about the face-value of the person you shake hands with – it is the reputation and image that surrounds them.

These days your image can and will follow you. It is logged, documented, diarised, collated and Googled. In the future your grandchildren will be able to Google you. Your children, or your parents, may be doing it now!

These days, your professional reputation and image is a lot more than just what you wear and how you come across. Sure, looking the part and creating a good first impression is important but your professional reputation is about the entire package. It is about who you are, how you operate and what you stand for. Your actions, reactions and integrity are under constant scrutiny.

With the rise of social media and increase in communicative tools, managing your reputation is now critical. It is easy for current and future employers to Google you, and often before the interview or promotion. Your online reputation could be affecting your real-world reputation in ways you aren’t even aware of. Conversations that you thought were deleted can still be accessed with the correct URL or search phrase.

Google. Never. Forgets.

It’s no secret we need to be authentic and operate from the heart. That authentic person needs to live and breathe online as well. It’s no good espousing virtues that don’t align with daily activities. There is no “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” in Google’s world. Here are some ideas to bring your online and offline profiles into alignment.

Mind your language

Social media has changed the way we communicate. In many cases we do not have the physical nuances that embellish and direct a conversational theme. Many conversations rely on words only with no signals to indicate mood. You may write your message while smiling and laughing but without that facial expression to go with it the message could result in a completely different outcome. Icons and punctuation such as exclamation marks can be very useful but don’t rely on these, change your language to suit the mood instead.

Hold off on the Send button

It is too easy for innocent statements to be misconstrued. Appropriate communication is just as important as the message itself. Always read back your message and even sit on it for 5 minutes before sending to make sure it comes across in the most appropriate way. We have all been at the brunt of an email fired off in anger, either by us or to us, so this strategy can save us from future problems! Set your email manager to send every half hour rather than immediately and you will mostly have the chance to review your words if necessary.

Is your message consistent?

Check out your social media profiles and make sure they are congruent. There is a different tone that goes with different platforms but your ethos and modus operandi should marry.

Watch your spelling

Finally, and at the risk of sounding like your high school English teacher, spelling is now more important than ever. Yes, many conversations on mobiles and on Twitter rely on abbreviations such as gr8, r u ok? and YOLO but these abbreviations do not have a place on platforms such as LinkedIn, email, blogs or even facebook.

When you communicate using only words, those words need to be correct, appropriate and grammatically sound. Relying on spell-check just doesn’t cut it as many words can mean something totally different to what you are trying to convey but may still be spelled correctly.

Post only what’s important

Every post, every comment and every picture all contribute to a profile of what you are all about. Make sure you are proud of every post. No exceptions.

Update your CV

Make a yearly habit to update your CV. Once you have established where you’re going that year, take the time to check all your online and face to face activities. Are they in alignment? If not, what needs to change?

You never know just who might be on the shoreline.

In Real Life (IRL)

In Real Life (IRL)

People are fundamentally social beings. We have lived and developed in societies and tend to seek relationships in our daily lives – we build families, friendships, business connections, and so on. For most of us, our connections form a core part of our daily lives and our identity. However, with the advent of social media, a lot of our connections don’t happen face-to-face anymore, but they occur through the screen of a device.

Often, our face-to-face connections disappear from our daily lives to be replaced with face-to-screen interaction. An important question to ask, then, is how does a lack of direct, actual connection hurt us? Let’s take a look.

Most of us don’t feel good when we are lonely. Loneliness is a highly negative experience, subjectively speaking. But social connection is not only satisfying, but also essential for our health, as studies show. Loneliness can, quite literally, kill us.

A study reviewed 148 studies that had over three hundred thousand participants in total. It found that participants with stronger social relationships had a 50% increase in their likelihood of survival, so people with weak social relationships were more likely to die sooner. This was true for people of different characteristics (Holt-Lunstad, Smith, & Layton, 2010 ). A lack of social connection, then, can make it more likely for people to die sooner.

Another study considered the impact of social connections throughout the different stages of a person’s life. A higher degree of social connection was associated with a lower risk of disease and dysregulation throughout all the life stages. A lack of social connection, on the other, hand, was consistently linked to very elevated risk in different life stages, like adolescence and old age. The impact of social isolation on health could be seen as significant as the impact of physical inactivity or diabetes (Yang et al., 2016). Just these two studies show how the lack of social connection can negatively impact our well-being.

But are face-to-face interactions significant? Can we make-do with just online communication? There is evidence to suggest that we can’t. A study considered depression in older adults and examined how face-to-face interaction and online interaction could predict depression. It was found that those adults who had interpersonal contact with friends and family more frequently were less likely to develop depression, with more contact being linked to less depression. Online communication did not have the same effect (Teo et al., 2015).

Online communication is not something to be demonized. It can be used effectively to support existing friendships and enhance a person’s well-being, as can happen with adolescents who usually use instant messaging and online communication to stay in touch with existing friends (Valkenburg & Peter, 2007). However, online communication can support an existing relationship, but can not replace face-to-face interactions. Another study found that face-to-face communication could inspire feelings of closeness online interaction did not have (Mallen, Day, & Green, 2003).

What does this mean? Firstly, we know that social connection is fundamental in our lives and that face-to-face interactions are an essential component of social connection. Without social connection, our health suffers, physically and mentally, increasing a risk of mortality. While some sources could say that online communication can enhance our face-to-face interactions and help us maintain our relationships and connections, online communication is not enough by itself to help us create meaningful connections with other people. Face-to-face interactions should still be at the core of our relationships. Online interactions can help nurture our relationships, but most of our connection should be based on interactions that happen in real life.


References

Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: A Meta-analytic review. PLoS Medicine, 7(7), e1000316. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316

Mallen, M.J., Day, S.X., & Green, M.A. (2003). Online versus face-to-face conversation: An examination of relational and discourse variables. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training. 40(1-2), 155.

Teo, A., Choi, H., Andrea, S., Valenstein, M., Newsom, J., Dobscha, S., & Zivin, K. (2015). Does mode of contact with different types of social relationships predict depression in older adults? Evidence from a nationally representative survey. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society., 63(10), 2014–22. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26437566

Yang, Y. C., Boen, C., Gerken, K., Li, T., Schorpp, K., Harris, K. M., … 100872, B. (2016). Social relationships and physiological determinants of longevity across the human life span. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(3), 578–583. doi:10.1073/pnas.1511085112

Valkenburg, P. M., & Peter, J. (2007). Online communication and adolescent well-being: Testing the stimulation versus the displacement hypothesis. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(4), 1169–1182. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00368.x