As a professor, I feel blessed. It’s one of the rare professions which still has a human touch left in them. I feel all the more blessed when I get to interact with my colleagues and my students. Recently, in one such interaction, a colleague sought advice on ways to arouse her daughter’s interest in homework. My subject being Psychology, and my having done some research for my own son, I could offer her some suggestions. On other days, I get to discuss nuances of teaching, or a new cake recipe, or politics.
In our whirlwind electronic-age routines, we are forgetting a very basic human requirement: Connection. In the parleys of Psychology, this is known as affiliation need. Beyond the primary needs of food, water, clothing, and shelter, come affiliation needs. Valuing a person in the same room, more than a person digitally online, goes a long way in fulfilling this need. Despite all the emoticons and stickers, a heart-to-heart chat with an old school friend over coffee is worth millions more than a WhatsApp chat. We need to assimilate this fact deeply inside us and take control of our gadgets, instead of vice versa.
Here are a few steps we can take:
Self-reflection: Our most important relationship is with ourselves. Making time for introspection and being mindful of our words, actions and feelings assist in this direction. Once we connect with our true selves, we become authentic with others, too. This genuineness is the essence of anything meaningful we want to experience in our relationships.
Accept differences: Theoretically, we know that each one of us is unique. But the application of this knowledge escapes us. The minute we doubt others’ demeanor, we tend to distance ourselves. Not to lower the threshold of suspicion, after all, it’s essential to be careful in today’s date; but, we also need to learn how to differ. Differences don’t necessarily mean disputes. They can be seen as opportunities to broaden our outlook and evolve our mindset.
Value feelings: More than anything else, even today, people look for a warm heart and amicable nature in others. This might sound like an old-village-soul, but if we are able to move beyond varying facets of people’s persona, to look a bit deeper into their souls; each one yearns for understanding and empathy.
Give it time: Seeds don’t blossom into flowers overnight. True relations need time, nurturance and patience. The person you are talking to might start scrolling her Facebook timeline. Hold on, don’t escape into the same disconnected zone yourself. Smile, give her space and endure. Your efforts and self-control are sure to eventually reap benefits.
Limit gadget time: We are addicted to checking our mobiles and I-pads repeatedly. Resist this urge. It’ll help in forming deeper bonds with those around us.
These things need to be adopted not only for ourselves but for the forthcoming generation, too. More than an hour of screen-time among kids has been found to have links with lower mental health in them. But, by seeing us resort to electronics every other minute, they learn to do the same. Indeed, youngsters learn by observing us, so, merely preaching won’t help; we must set an example before them. Sit with them, crack jokes (even lame ones will do), make them feel special even when they are posing huge parenting challenges, and keep all communication channels open. It will diffuse most of the issues. And as they say, listen to understand, not to respond; rest will happen automatically.
The same applies to the older generation. The elderly have a wealth of experience, and they have seen the world evolving. They are experts in life in their own way. Sitting with them and listening to their ‘hamare zamaane mein’ stories is not only a stress-reliever for everyone but enables us to delve into their wealth of experience, too.
By no means do I intend to undermine the utility of screens and gadgets. They are a boon if used judiciously. But the present-day scenario screamingly demands moderation in using them. Let’s turn to screens for talking only as a second (or third, or fourth) option. Let’s dabble in real talk. It’s the most precious gift we can give someone in today’s era. Last, but not least, we need to preserve the hardcopy books, lest they become extinct with Kindle, and give-and-take real-life hugs.
By Reema Bansal Mehta