Life is hard. It’s a constant challenge. I can’t deny that I’ve been the guy who says “life is great” and “there are so many beautiful things in the world, so don’t despair.” And so on. Of course, it’s easy to say that when things are in perfect flow.
When I’m actually honest with myself though, I know that life is a challenge. You, and I, and everyone we know, is constantly knocking horns with the future. Family, money, health, work, love, even our freaking cars, are constantly bringing stressors into our lives. It doesn’t mean we hate life, and even though we may enjoy it, it’s surprisingly easy to lay in bed and have something to worry about, or something on the to-do-list, or a reason to be upset, or a reason to be anxious … and so on.
Recently, this concept reared its ugly head for me. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, I’ll say that I’m going through some relationship issues. The notion of love is being tested. And needless to say, I’ve been upset; sadness being the primary emotion. Last week, I walked into work at The BizDojo, and the only person that I had informed about the weekend’s events came up to me and asked if I was ok. In that moment, Pandora’s Box was opened, and the tears fell out of my face.
Now, let me set the scene here. It was midday (I hadn’t slept much so I came in late) and I walked in through the side door in the kitchen. Obviously I wasn’t thinking, and didn’t realise that it was lunch time. People are everywhere, making toast, coffeeing, tupperware-ing, chatting, salading … you get the picture. So of course, this dude walks in, starts crying, and heads turn in that subtle I’m-not-really-looking-at-you-but-still-kinda-looking sort of way. Ya know … it’s not something often seen in the workplace.
For the sake of not rambling too long, I’ll skip to the point of this story.
It was a bizarre situation. And a bizarre day. I’m glad I went to work, because it helped me focus on something else. But on that day, and those following, something magical happened. Workmates and space-occupiers became real, genuine humans. I showed weakness, and it created room for this notion called “empathy.” Granted, for a few people it was awkward, but hey, it paid off in the end.
I spent the aforementioned days opening up to people. And they opened up in return. People I’d barely spoken to at the BizDojo went from being acquaintances to true connections. I really felt like I’d transcended into a new environment. More people know me here now. The real me. A me that doesn’t have to smile and be energetic all the time. And I know them in return. There is a bond now, and an understanding. I realised that I’m merely one of many going through similar situations. And even if not, pretty much everyone has been there in the past. How’s that for something to connect over?
Corporates pay stupid amounts of money to “build teams”. Xmas parties are filled with alcohol as a social lubricant. And shared spaces try to create community through an array of interesting, usually fun ways. The point of this story however, is that I don’t understand what happened to some good old human interaction in fostering the community that these companies work so hard to create. These people are my friends now - of course I’d help them where I can. Of course I’d take time out of my day to assist with their endeavours. Of course I’d use my own network to support them.
Is the moral of the story “if you want people to connect, give them a reason to cry”?
Well, no, not quite. Rather, it’s about giving them a reason to talk. To get down to the basics. To put the business and money aside for a few minutes and talk about real life stuff. Don’t just joke around all the time with basic icebreakers. Actually find a way to get these people talking about things that make them feel stuff, and find commonality in that. It may be a hard endeavour, but one that may pay off significantly more than the easier alternatives.
Though I have nothing factual to base this on, I can almost guarantee it will create more unity amongst teams than a $25,000 event that sees everyone waking up in the gutter the next day.
Now … let’s go grab a beer.
Gil Amir is the Community and Communications Coordinator of BizDojo Auckland.