Norman Mailer once said, "Every moment of one's existence, one is growing into more -- or retreating into less. One is always living a little more or dying a little bit." When I think about this quote, it's about the way it relates to change and how we cope with it.
What will the future look like, ten, twenty or thirty years from now? How will your life change in the face of progress and innovation? How will it affect you, personally?
Sometimes things come at us out of nowhere, and sometimes they emerge, ever so slowly but surely, into our awareness. It is human nature to eschew unpleasant thoughts or to procrastinate. That's how we are about the future. Unless you are a careful planner, many of us tend not to think about things that scare us -- and we may not be ready to face the inevitable. Some people thrive on change and are on the cutting edge of innovation, while others bury their heads in the sand and may become a casualty of change. And while we can't control what transformations will take place in our future, we can control the way in which we respond to our brave new world.
Futurist David Houle describes the current and approaching years as the "Age of Intelligence." His view confirms my concern that for many, our communication skills may not be ready to withstand these changes. Houle maintains that, "The Age of Intelligence will be a time when humanity, for the first time, will have to psychologically adapt to an equal or superior intelligence cohabiting the planet with us. Are we ready? Absolutely not. We must start to face this fast approaching reality."
How on earth do we do that?
Other than preparing for the state of flux in the job market caused by AI and other technological changes, the other thing we need to consider is the survival of meaningful human interaction. A focus on the human element is what will allow us to continue to flourish as a species. In other words, we need to get to the core of some of the emotional factors that can interfere with optimal communication. I don't know about you, but in the future, I don't want to count Alexa, Cortana or Siri as my only close personal friends.
If you want to make some significant changes in your communication skills, here are a few points to get you started:
EI trumps AI.
Emotional Intelligence (or EI) is often associated with a high-level of self-awareness and self-regulation. EI is about managing your emotions and helping others manage their own, and improves your ability to "read" people or pick up on social cues. When your emotional intelligence game is strong, you have a balanced capacity for introspection. Tip: Try asking better questions for enhanced insight into the hearts and minds of others.
Maintain personal connections.
Loneliness and anxiety are major growing health concerns in our society. Take care of your mental health by sustaining meaningful relationships on a regular basis. Make face-to-face meetings a priority, pursue your passions and say "yes" more often to the activities that tighten your social bonds.
Practice mindful listening.
You can't improve your communication skills without first learning how to listen. Be aware, present, and withhold judgment when dealing with others. Productive and thoughtful communication thrives on mindful listening.
Develop emotional resilience.
We are often our own worst enemy when we are under stress. Strive for a reserve of emotional resilience, your inherent, protective mechanism that impacts your responses, positively. The goal is to shift into a state of equanimity when you are emotionally challenged, allowing you to regulate your emotions mindfully, and communicate more cohesively. Try these capacity-building exercises to fortify your stores of calm and composure.
Cut-back on screen time.
Take a good look at the amount of time you spend online, outside of work, and try to peel it back. You can benefit immensely from working some quiet and stillness into your day. Unplugging will help your mind and body recharge, so that you will be better equipped to connect with who matters most in your off-line life. Screen time is associated with reduced sleep duration, according to a recent study so consider trading in screen time for either a five-minute meditation, a walk or another stress-busting activity you enjoy.
Rest and recharge.
A clear, restored mind is better equipped to handle high-stakes interactions and support emotionally intelligent communication. When you commit to rest and improving your sleep habits with less time in front of the TV, computer or phone, you will experience increased productivity and overall health.