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April 27 - May 18, 2015 22 Working World l FEATURED ARTICLE by Nancy D. O'Reilly, PsyD T oo many of us have let crushing schedules and convenient high- tech substitutes for talking rob us of the deep, fulfilling human connections we crave. Dr. Nancy D. O'Reilly says it's time to rediscover the joy of real relation- ships. Here's how. Nothing makes for a rich, fulfilling life quite like really great relationships. Our bonds with family members, friends, and (to a surprising extent) coworkers provide support, love, joy, and compan- ionship and foster personal growth. They are vital to our emotional and even physical health. But have you noticed the quality of your relationships might be declining? And have you asked yourself why? Chances are, you're just not put- ting in the time and effort it takes, says Dr. Nancy D. O'Reilly. "If anything has made a difference in my life, it's the really close relationships I've enjoyed," says O'Reilly, who, along with 19 other women, cowrote the new book Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leader- ship, Business, and Life (Adams Media, 2015, ISBN: 978-1-440-58417-6, $16.99, "Yet such re- lationships seem harder to achieve now. As we've gotten more 'connected' (in the Facebook sense), we've somehow gotten less connected (in the human sense). Relationship atrophy happens for a variety of reasons, but much of the blame can be laid at the feet of 21st century realities. For one thing, we're all seriously overcommitted. For another, while tech- nology is a highly useful tool, it encour- ages a culture in which we spend more time documenting and recording rather than fully experiencing life. We trick ourselves into believing that our social media connections are "relationships" when they are not. And of course, when we're using up all our time doing all these things—photo- graphing, posting, updating, reading updates—it's impossible to be having dinner with someone. So if you're feeling the depressing ef- fects of this relationship deficit, what's to be done about it? Well, plenty, says O'Reilly. "What gets focused on gets done," she says. "That's why I'm urging women everywhere—men, too—to focus on the state of their relationships this summer. This begins with realizing that great rela- tionships are not a luxury but an impor- tant human need. And the rest of it is just a matter of making a conscious effort to change your patterns. "When you ask a friend you haven't seen in a while to meet at the coffee shop, expect some confusion or even worry," she adds. "But once she realizes you're not going to hit her with some bad news—or worse, try to sell her on your pyramid marketing scheme!—she'll be thrilled you took the initiative." Here are a few tips for getting started: TECHNOLOGY SHOULD SUPPLEMENT (NOT DOMINATE) YOUR RELATIONSHIPS. This is equally true in friendship and in business. "Easier and faster isn't better," asserts O'Reilly. "Real relationships demand that we spend more time face to face or at least having actual phone conversations than we do Facebooking and texting. Most of us have the ratios reversed." PLEDGE TO SPEND (I.E., WASTE) LESS TIME ON SOCIAL MEDIA. It's amazing how much time gets eaten up posting photos and updates and look- ing at others' photos and updates. While we surely don't mean for it to happen, this activity consumes hours of time each day. To break the habit, O'Reilly suggests setting limits—say, one or two hours a week. "This will prevent you from getting 'lost' and wasting time in the virtual world that you could be spending on nurturing real-world rela- tionships," she says. REMEMBER THAT FACE TIME ALWAYS TRUMPS FACEBOOK. Now matter how many photos and up- dates friends see, there is no substitute for an in-person visit. And if distance and finances make that impossible, a phone call is the next best thing. "When you're tempted to post something on Facebook or Instagram, think twice: Instead, call a friend and TELL her about your trip to the beach, or your kid winning the spell- ing bee, or the great new restaurant you discovered," suggests O'Reilly. REACH OUT AND TOUCH SOMEONE. (THERE'S A REASON IT'S NOT REACH OUT AND TEXT SOMEONE.) Yes, texting is convenient, but really it's nothing more than an exchange of dry facts. A phone call yields details about your friend's life and creates opportuni- ties to connect emotionally. "We text because we feel we don't have time for a conversation," says O'Reilly. "But be honest: Don't you have ten minutes while washing dishes or folding laundry? The payoff for this tiny investment of time can be huge." RESERVE SOME NEWS JUST FOR A FEW CLOSE FRIENDS. "Meaningful information about your life is the currency for relationships," says O'Reilly. "When you blather your busi- ness all over social media, it ceases to be special anymore." LET YOURSELF BE VULNERABLE. One of the problems with social media is that it encourages us to put our best face forward, always. Yet vulnerability 19 Low-Tech Ways to Weave Stronger, Richer, Deeper Bonds With Friends & Colleagues

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