A Long and Winding Road
I had breakfast yesterday with a woman that had been a neighbor when I was in high school. It was a particularly challenging time in my life and hers was one place that I could count on a friendly face, encouragement, and a break from the stress. Our lives went separate ways and we lost touch until she began searching for me online and tracked me down after a few email exchanges. There we were, enjoying each other in the present and sharing stories about the various paths our lives had taken. It got me thinking what it was about our earlier relationship that set the stage for such genuine enjoyment of each other even though our day to day contact had been limited when we were neighbors. And what of technology, and the role that played in allowing us to once again enjoy interactions with eachother? One theory, that of High Quality Connections, might explain the ways small relationship exchanges can yield such lasting and memorable connections.
High Quality Relationships (HQR, 2011) are connections we make with others that build us up, make us feel positively, and help us feel supported in our environments. There is an entire field of study devoted to understanding how to create organizational environments that facilitate such dyadic experiences. Stephens, Heaphy, and Dutton (2011) outline the various elements central to HQR. ”Other-awareness” is a term that refers to being aware of another person’s feelings, attitudes, and perceptions. Developing other awareness may allow an individual an advantage in their daily encounters; if you understand how others are feeling you are more likely to know when is the right time to offer support and when is the right time to seek support. The author’s offer new ways we might consider respect, support, and play as tools in enriching our daily interactions. The richer the interactions the more satisfied we are likely to be in multiple areas of our life. While the authors consider this in the context of in-person interactions, there remains uncertainty in what ways social media may be used for fostering HQR. Surely a DM from a close friend mid workday connects you to them and provides a sense of play. What might these tools do to office relationships, client interactions? What to make of the expanding tools in social media, and tools to focus our attention within social media information landscapes?
The newly launched ruustr allows you to set up search criteria that could be used to alert you when someone in your preferred network expresses a need. This in turn could be used to increase your “other awareness” and your knowledge of opportunities that present to engage in HQ interactions. At the end of the day social media tools don’t have to represent alienating factors in our relationships but could be used to heighten our engagement in the three factors that most influence HQR:
“The focus on respectful engagement, task enabling and playing shows us that small moves matter for building connection and that modes of interacting can transform people’s understandings of how they relate to others.” (Stephens, Heaphy, & Dutton., (2011), p17)
Respect, support, and playfulness create lasting and measurable impacts; we can use technology to deepen these connections. Doing so creates chances for even small exchanges to offer important and valuable connections. These simple but powerful ideas are worth cultivating for the chance they provide for us to share time and space with others. And the experience reminds me the powerful impact we can have when we just share a little of our time with others.
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Loretta L.C. Brady, Ph.D., APA-CP is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Professor, Entrepreneur, and Diversity Columnist.
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Loretta L.C. Brady, Ph.D., APA-CP, 2011-2014