To Think Better: Build Social Connections

Humans thrive together.
Hardwired to connect, we do our best when working with others, especially those we consider like us, sharing common beliefs and values.

When not focused on a particular task we default automatically to start thinking about ourselves and others.

As Matt Lieberman in his book Social advises, “evolution has made a bet, that the best thing for our brain to do in any spare moment is to get ready for what comes next in social terms.”

Being social rocks, and our technology and social media platforms have allowed us to take this to the next level, as we cram in as many moments as possible to update our Facebook page, Twitter, Snapchat or LinkedIn.
No wonder we hate being apart from our smartphones. We crave connection and are rewarded for our efforts with that extra shot of dopamine that makes us feel good.

While the boss might disapprove of social chitchat and conversations around the water cooler, these interactions play a vital role in securing more meaningful interpersonal relationships, that lead to greater team cohesion, more discretionary effort and effective collaboration.

That’s why, despite the growing trend to work “offsite” for greater flexibility, thought needs to be given to ensure sufficient social interaction still occurs on a regular basis.

Feeling part of a tribe is highly rewarding, boosting well being, motivation, confidence and competence. The benefit of good connections cannot be overstated when it comes to performance, efficiency and effectiveness.

At this time of year when many businesses and organisations are winding down for the Christmas break; there is often a mad flurry of festive drinks, functions and parties for everyone to catch up one last time before the end of the current year. It’s as if we are worried we won’t see each other for another 12 months.

But what if more opportunities to connect were scheduled for other times, specifically to elevate productivity and greater happiness at work and if so, who should be the one to coordinate that connection program?

The power of social is it enhances innovation and the desire to create solutions to problems both big and small. Our greatest big thinkers including Elon Musk and the late Steve Jobs continually seek to come up with new ideas that will better serve the planet and recognising they can’t do it alone, harness the best thinking power of others.

What are the opportunities for you to connect more?

  1. Start with “hello.”
    It costs nothing, but a cheery “good morning” will set you up to enjoy a more productive and happier day.
  2. When starting a meeting ask others to share a positive experience. What went well, which wins were celebrated, who can be acknowledged for doing great work?
  3. Share more face-to-face time with colleagues during a work break or over lunch. Before reaching out to check your emails, twitter feed or Instagram account (yet again), what if you were to shout someone a coffee and have a non-work conversation?
  4. Think of a team project for the greater good. Mobilising your team or department to work together over a period of time, whether fundraising for a particular charity or undertaking to donate time to help those in need is a great way of building greater social cohesion in the workplace and the community at large.
  5. Ask the better question. Rather than asking a closed question that delivers a yes/no answer, ask a question that allows the other person to expand a little more about themselves. For example “how did you end up working in this area?” or “where do you see yourself working in 5 years time?”

Human connection matters. Period.

We are very good at surviving. Our marvellous brain takes care of that because our neuroplasticity provides the means to always adapt to changes in our environment. But better than survival, thrival enhances trust, empathy and inclusion.

It was Nelson Mandela who said,

“It is ordinary people… that makes the world a special place.”

Enhancing greater social cohesion provides every one of us the bigger opportunity to bring about extraordinary change and positive difference to our world.

It’s time to get more social.