IMG_20130826_181316As usual, the seasonal break has been a time of contemplation and self reflection. I’ve been considering what’s happening and changing in my area of work, around where I live and at home as myself, colleagues, family and friends prepare to move on to the next chapters of our lives.

It’s made me consider and appreciate what I have. I’ve also read far more than I usually do and I’ll share some of that shortly.

The family was reunited as firstborn returned from Russia before heading off on his travels again in February. Russia is a communication culture we’ve recently learnt about by experience. It’s not as easy to access folk in Russia in some ways but compared to how things were when I was studying away from home it’s a lot easier. We did however Skype him every week and perhaps spoke more often than when he was at university in the UK. It was good to actually see him talking with us. It certainly narrowed the distance but it’s been really nice to have him home.

Thinking about this led me to recall the days before mobile phones, broadband or the web, when student houses didn’t have landlines. If you could find one in working order, you had to queue in the street to use a phone box or you wrote letters and bought stamps and envelopes. It was nice to receive hand addressed envelopes and their handwritten contents. I sort of miss that but realise my channel shift to email, texts and now Skype is partly responsible. I wonder what happened to thank you letters? It’s kind of sad that doesn’t appear to happen any more.

I was ill over New Year so missed out on the usual hugs and greetings to spare people catching the dreaded lurghy. Being ill allowed me to watch the full box set of The Thick Of It; a present from my better half. Funny as it is, there’s a lot about the merits of sociable communication or otherwise in there too and heyho, we have elections coming up so a timely refresher maybe 😉

This all made me think about personal communication and whether, in all the many communication developments and all the change that’s happening and will no doubt continue in 2015, we are losing the personal touch and don’t communicate as sociably as we perhaps once did? Has instant and/or 24/7 access somehow replaced or reduced the opportunities or frequency for more intimate forms of communication?

Two of the things I read over Christmas touch on this. Both articles are well worth a good read. The first article was by Matt Edgar about change and software. The part that resonated with me was this;

“The history of city after city is that people settled first, and shaped the infrastructure around them afterwards. And while they were waiting for the mod cons to arrive, they had to figure out how to get along together, how to raise the next generation, how to look after the old, sick and poor. To organise service for so many people demanded new forms of social software. The first mutual societies, trade unions, public health boards, and even modern local government arose first in cities like Leeds. Keep hold of those stories. Seek out more of them.”

Is it now a case of damn those mod cons or some sort of reverse serendipity where we are less sociable as a result of evolution?

The second is by Rich Watts on systems leaders and change and references Stanford Social Innovation Review’s recent article on The Dawn of System Leadership. The part that struck a chord was about ‘re-directing attention, shifting the nature of awareness and thinking behind our actions and creating space for change’. Rich’s post summarises things perfectly and I think in parts perhaps mirrors the old tale from the bible somewhere about not seeing clearly.

It’s amazing how many times the parables and fables reappear.

So it seems that in a rush to be faster, smarter, more efficient, we sometimes forget the sociable way to do things. We forget to make time to talk, ask after people, share food and drink, hand write letters, pick up the phone, say thank you, sense body language; the intimate stuff that can often mean so much especially in tough times.

I’ve not made any specific resolutions to be faster, smarter or more efficient; just to continue my #trulysocial work and see where it goes; who and what it connects with and how things might be. I will however make time for creating space for the changes that will come.

I’m 50 this year. I have a #trulysocial plan for it. I’ve been to too many funerals and leaving do’s where people say we should meet in happier circumstances and then end up saying it again at the next one as we didn’t do anything about it.

Cottage road

Watch this sociable space.