• DATE May 27, 2014
  • URL oneinstitute.com/tile/being-human/

Being Human

We need each other to flourish. Left to our own devices—literally or figuratively—we’re doomed.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, psychiatrist Edward Hallowell proffers a surprisingly simple antidote to much of the anxiety that permeates the frenzied, hyper-linked workplace of the twenty-first century: a simple face-to-face conversation.

Hallowell notes how easily in-person interactions can vanish from our daily work, and goes on to appeal for a recovery of “the human moment”—which he describes as “an authentic psychological encounter that can happen only when two people share the same physical space.”

Being physically present in the same room is obviously a crucial first step, but Hallowell says mere proximity isn’t enough by itself. We have to be fully present, both emotionally and mentally. This kind of intentional presence must become an ongoing priority if we and others are to truly experience its benefits. Fortunately, however, face-to-face interaction doesn’t require massive time commitments to be meaningful.

“The human moment can be brisk, businesslike, and brief,” Hallowell writes. “A five-minute conversation can be a perfectly meaningful human moment. To make the human moment work, you have to set aside what you’re doing, put down the memo you were reading, disengage from your laptop, abandon your daydream, and focus on the person you’re with.”

Our global knowledge-based economy is the new reality in the marketplace, and by all appearances, it’s here to stay. Without intentionality and discipline, therefore, the face-to-face conversation will increasingly come to be seen as an archaic and inefficient use of time.

To restore what Hallowell calls “the human moment” we must go deeper—we must recover the ancient wisdom that we are not self-sufficient beings without need for others. Rather, as Proverbs 18:1 warns, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”

Put another way, we need each other to flourish. Left to our own devices—literally or figuratively—we’re doomed.