Is it just me or is everybody too busy to talk anymore? My daily calls with Dad, which began during the Pandemic, have been facing lots of disturbances of late. My work days are getting longer, more meetings and events are filling up my calendar and more guests are finding their way to Amaryllis Kerala. As a result, when I call Dad he is busy, or when he calls me I am unable to answer the phone and I send him a message “Can I call you back?”. Even when I do call him back more often than not it’s a hurried conversation, and I am often multitasking. As a result, the quality of our chats has changed. This is not just limited to calls with Dad.
I find that many of my regular catch-up conversations with colleagues are also getting cancelled or cut short. It feels like the Wi-Fi signal in me has suddenly gone weak. As a result, the people I am trying to connect with keep dropping out of the conversation. They are in the same room as me but not in the same space. I am listening but not tuned in. In short, my ability to have meaningful conversations where I am connecting deeply with people seems to have diminished.
On the other hand, the number of transactional conversations has gone up many folds. I seem to be doing a lot of conversations that are about updating people, sharing data, sharing information, and seeking information. What I seem to be doing less of is having conversations that are informal, non-agenda exploratory, allowing for things to emerge. It is in this space that meaningful human connection happens.
I was in a training workshop and a client called. We had been missing each other’s calls for a few days, so I excused myself and stepped out to take the call. It turned out to be a 15-minute conversation that needed me to take some follow-up action. As a result, I lost 20 minutes of learning time to ensure that I made myself available to speak to the client. This felt like the right choice to make at the time, but it came at a price. Similarly, when Dad is sitting with a guest I don’t want to interrupt him.
The same poor signal situation happened when I was on a Teams call with my team. Three times I had to (or maybe I should say “I chose to” take a call while I was on a call). It is a well-established fact that the human brain does not do justice to multitasking. Fragmented attention is not the best way to bring my best self to any situation. While I know this in theory, I am finding it particularly hard to be fully present moment focused at present.
My daily habit of meditation too seems to have taken a downward spiral, it leaves my mind wandering. Racing into the future or visiting back alleys of the past. I find myself unable to focus my undivided attention on any one thing, person, or situation. Maybe it is a phase and it will pass, is what I tell myself. I went to an industry event and sat in the hall trying to listen to the panellists. Between my phone ringing and pinging, and many friends in the audience in minutes I found myself pulled into a side conversation and sending a message at the same time. When I looked up again the house was applauding as the speakers walked off the stage.
Is it that the treadmill of life has sped up? Is it that I have lost focus? Is it that there are too many things and people demanding my attention? Is it post Covid brain fog? Maybe some or all of these things are contributing to the lack of clarity in my world. Communication is a two-way process. My ability to receive an undistorted message, process it and respond appropriately is what completes the communications loop. I need to find a way to get better at communicating with the world. Maybe the solution lies in “Can I call you back?” just staying focused and committed to one thing, person, or situation at a time, while I tell the world I will call them back. Who are you going to give your undivided attention to? And who are you going to call back? These choices will define the quality of work and life. I remind my self “where your attention goes, your energy flows”.
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