Every once in a while, I like to sit back and consider whether there are any consistent challenges with which I’m being approached by new clients. There’s often a lot for me to learn from patterns in my practice over time.
This spring, without question, the number one issue faced by every new client in my coaching practice has been a deep sense of loneliness, alienation, and an absence of community.
If you think about it, that’s pretty extraordinary given the times we live in.
We are all on Facebook virtually non-stop, sharing our lives in images on Instagram, and updating our latest thoughts every few minutes on Twitter.
For most of us, there are very few aspects of our lives that aren’t shared with everyone we know, and many people we don’t, online.
And yet, many of us feel more lonely than ever before.
My own theory, which has some basis in studies on the functioning of the limbic brain, is that we need live, in person, face-to-face connection to feel that we are seen, heard and matter.
Without face-to-face connection, we are missing out on a critical part of what we need to thrive. (tweet this!)
And social media has made us lazy. Why would we bother picking up the phone, meeting for coffee, or dropping by a friend’s house when we already know what they’re doing right this second because they’ve just selfied it?
Maybe because there’s no substitute for the real thing.
It’s awfully hard to get the truth of what’s really going on with someone based on their social media profiles. You can’t see online all those tell-tale changes in expression, attempts to hide sadness, or inklings of what really hurts that you can grasp immediately by the way a friend just shifts in her chair over lunch.
And the give and take of live conversation that allows you to be heard and to listen and to process in real time provides us all with a resonance– that sense of “being seen”– that we all really need.
If you’re feeling alienated and alone this week, here’s four tips I give to my clients that you can apply to your own life to change that right now.
1) Take a break from social media. I’m experimenting this week with checking social media twice a day, because I found that the constant stream of information was actually giving me a headache by mid-afternoon– even though I routinely don’t check my phone, my email or any social platforms from 8 p.m. until 7 a.m. daily. Staying off social media reminds you that you have other options to connect.
2) Make plans for dinner with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. I did this myself just last week, and I felt like a new person after just two hours over a great meal with one of my best friends. We both unloaded a lot of stress that we’d been carrying around for a while simply by giving voice to it and getting advice in return. I repeat: there’s no substitute for face-to-face communication.
3) When you feel alone, pick up the phone. It doesn’t matter if you leave six voicemail messages for six different people– you’ll be letting them know that you are thinking of them and that they matter to you. Giving connection is a surefire way to get it in return.
4) Find an event or a class that interests you, and go (and go again). This is the number one strategy I’ve been giving to lonely clients in recent weeks. Exploring new communities of people who share a common interest is an easy way to build new friendships, and create a sense of community in your own life. Putting oneself out there to make new connections is worth the effort, no matter where you find yourself in life.
In the comments below, I’d love to hear how you are pursuing and maintaining connection in your life, and how you’ve succeeded in maintaining your support network over time.
Wishing you a wonderful week of connecting with those who matter most.
PS. Did you catch me on Daily Worth this week? Thanks to my awesome bookkeeper, Justine Lackey of Good Cents Bookkeeping, for including me in her profile of rising entrepreneurs. You can read the Daily Worth article here.
PPS. Are you a woman who is the primary breadwinner in your household? I’m looking to interview primary breadwinning women for a new project I’m working on, and I’m raffling off a free coaching session for those who participate. Interested? Contact me here.
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