Word Of the Week #531: Interact

October 8, 2014 by  

Interact to act on or in close relation with each other.

How much time do you spend on your computer or cell phone each day? How comfortable are you interacting with your co-workers? How much time do you spend with your friends and family?

This week’s WOW comes from Sefan Stern’s article in the Times of London that was reprinted in the LA Times Sunday Business section titled, “To truly interact at work, try it offline. ‘The Village Effect’ says group creativity arises from resisting digital solitude.”

“The benefits of the digital age have been oversold. Or to put in another way: There is plenty of life left in face-to-face, human interaction. That is the message emerging from an entertaining new book, “The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make us Healthier, Happier and Smarter,” written by Susan Pinker, a Canadian psychologist.

Citing a wealth of research and reinforced with her own arguments, Pinker suggests we should make an effort – at work and in our private lives – to promote greater levels of personal intimacy. Pinker writes, “In a short evolutionary time we have changed from group-living primates skilled at reading each other’s every gesture and intention, to a solitary species, each one of us preoccupied with our own screen.”

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Pinker says creating our own “villages” of friends and colleagues is good for our health and working life. But these should be real-life connections, not merely virtual ones. The Internet presents a paradox: Some say we’re more connected now than ever – mostly due to the Internet – and some sat we’re less connected – mostly due to the Internet. Both views are correct.

In offices everywhere, proximity matters. Ideas flow better when people can see each other and talk easily. Pinker says, “Face-to-face contact with a skilled teacher for even one year in a child’s life has more impact than any laptop program has had so far.”

Reciprocal altruism is a winning strategy in life and in business. Pinker reminds us of a great insight from former baseball player and manager Yogi Berra: “Always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise, they won’t come to yours.”

This week’s focus is on how much you interact at home and work. How much face-to-face time do you spend with people each day? How attached are you to your computer and phone screens? Do you have a hard time turning them off? How many “villages” of friends and colleagues do you have?

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