Category Archives: Technology

The Real Problem With E-mail

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

062017_EmailDespite what you may think, the real problem with e-mail has nothing to do with e-mail. The problem is not the volume of e-mail you receive. Nor is it that messages are poorly crafted, often lacking details and specific requests. The issue isn’t that subject lines are misleading and your peers don’t understand the difference between CC, BCC and TO fields. These are all annoying and unproductive aspects related to e-mail. However, “fixing”, even eliminating, these aspects won’t solve the main, mostly unspoken issue with e-mail.

The real problem with e-mail is we have forgotten there is a human being on the other side of the message. A human being seeking connection, making a request, asking for help or in some cases offering help. In our hurry to slam through our inbox and knock it off our “to do” list, the bid for human connection has become a casualty of the exchange.

E-mail has evolved into a powerful tactical and transactional tool, yet at the same time, it’s also the primary business communication tool. Which is why it makes sense that e-mail has become such a pain point — as the speed at which most people “attack” their inbox leaves plenty of missed opportunity to understand what is a transactional message and what is a bid for relationship building.

Hence the disconnect — we keep trying to solve our e-mail problems with productivity tips; when instead of color-coding, flagging or filing in folders a slew of half-way communicated messages, we could choose instead to craft a few carefully, intentionally worded communications with the purpose to connect and be of service to those on the receiving end. Sure, your inbox may be at zero, but was the information you wanted to share complete and more so, how did your message make the person/people on the other end feel?

When listening to people talk about their relationship with e-mail, many people hold a belief that e-mail isn’t part of “work”. How can it not be part of work? E-mail isn’t just something you do — it’s a chance each day, with each e-mail you write, to be the person you want to be. Each communication you craft is an opportunity to reflect what you really want to say and how you really want to show up and who you are.

What if instead of focusing on the next ten e-mails you have to “pound through”, you became fully present on the one in front of you? What if you imagined the face of the person or people on the other end of the communication looking to you for a response, guidance or acknowledgement? What if you slowed down your inbox time and really read the message and looked for the request for understanding, approval or connection?

With each e-mail you send, you have the power to make someone feel important, acknowledged, respected or heard. You also have the same power to make someone feel dismissed, disrespected or unimportant. The choice is yours for how to be in relationship with your e-mail, and with each message you send you get to make that choice again and again.

 

[Note: This post originally appeared in Thrive Global]

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A Case for Reclaiming Conversation at Work

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

conversationConversation is a persistent theme in every program we teach at Simple Intentions. Particularly, we strive to raise awareness of the conversations we are not having at work – with our colleagues, but also with ourselves.

These are conversations around values, boundaries, needs, and wants. We teach that having awareness of our behaviors and their impact on everyone around us allows us to have more authentic conversations – conversations that create shared understanding and empathy – which ultimately lead to more sustainable success. When we avoid these conversations, we risk creating imbalance and disengagement from our work and colleagues.

As strong proponents of authentic conversation, then, we’re energized by the attention being paid to the new book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, by Sherry Turkle, a clinical psychologist and professor at MIT, who also wrote, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.

In this new volume, Turkle explores the impact of technology on communication and relationships. Specifically, she warns that so much texting, tweeting, emailing, and other forms of “flat” digital communication are preempting opportunities for meaningful, face-to-face engagement. She cites a statistic showing a steep decline in measurements of empathy among college students over the past 20 years, mostly over the past 10 years.

Turkle also laments technology’s role in decreasing our capacity for being alone without being lonely. Boredom is beneficial, she claims, a chance to tap into our imaginations and get to know ourselves. In an interview Turkle says, “it is only when you can go within and know who you are that you can then be in a conversation and hear someone else…really hear who they are” rather than project onto that person what you need them to say or who you need them to be.

In the workplace, too often we see conversations interrupted or omitted altogether by a continuous flow of email, instant messages, likes, and follows. Increasingly, the imbalance and stress we hear about stems from over-engagement with devices. Still, like Turkle, we aren’t anti-technology; on the contrary, we love our devices and having the option to text, email and work from anywhere.

But we also promote more mindful and intentional usage of our devices – in the appropriate settings and for the right reasons. Above all, we are pro-conversation – the dimensional, face-to-face exchanges that spark connectedness and creativity. Technology has its place, but it shouldn’t take that of real conversation.

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My Family’s Digital Reboot

By Karen Starns, guest blogger and friend of Simple Intentions

[Note: This post originally appeared on Medium.com]

I’ve been wrestling with my kids’ insatiable attraction to their screens and the knock on effect of less and less meaningful dialogue. Our limited time together (the kids live with their dad 50% of the time) started to feel like shared aloneness with everyone in their own mode. Car rides were accompanied with devices and ear buds, reducing communication to an occasional grunt or a request to turn the car radio down. You’d think everyone doing what they wanted — listening to their own playlist, bingeing on YouTube, playing Temple Run — would be a source of contentment. The reality, my husband and I admitted to each other, was that the kids were usually distracted and often irritable.

Over the weekend, Sherry Turkle wrote an excellent New York Times Op-Ed “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.” Her piece speaks to our growing inability to have real conversations and its effect on relationships. Turkle has written about this for some time. In 2011 she authored “Alone Together,” a stark view of the shift that technology has brought into our society . The book’s subtitle, “Why we expect more from technology and less from each other” is as resonant and scary today as it was then.

Over-reliance on technology has become a source of tension at home. We realize we have been allowing our time with the kids, aged 13 and 10, to be stolen by their digital priorities. Looking in the mirror, we grownups had also fallen into the trap of filling our spare time with digital candy — satisfying in the moment, but forgotten in an instant. As a family, we were missing out on the goodness in life that doesn’t happen on a schedule.

Frank Bruni brought the idea to life in his recent New York Times Op-Ed “The Myth of Quality Time”, pointing out: “people tend not to operate on cue. At least our moods and emotions don’t. We reach out for help at odd points; we bloom at unpredictable ones. The surest way to see the brightest colors, or the darkest ones, is to be watching and waiting and ready for them.”

Looking at these interrelated situations — device dependency and the loss of meaningful conversation and the need for quantity, not just quality, time — spurred our family to action. The changes we’ve made at home seem to be working.

Our first step was to do what so many other families have already done: take technology out of the kids’ rooms and into public spaces. Their devices can only be used in family areas. They are both big readers, so Kindle’s are the only exception. This initial move made a meaningful difference, especially with our 13-year old daughter, who joins us on the sofa instead of disappearing into her room for hours. To be honest, she is often there with ear buds and a steady diet of YouTube — but she is there. A few weeks in, we asked the kids what good things had come about from our decision to take technology out of the bedroom. Our daughter was the first to respond and said she found it easier to go to sleep at night — and easier to wake up. We all agreed that we liked spending more time together.

Step two helped us make even more progress. For this change, we sought buy-in from the kids. Together, we committed to detach ourselves from our phones while at home. When each person comes in the door, the phone goes in a special basket — it doesn’t stay in our hand or get tucked into a pocket. This simple (yet huge) action demonstrates our commitment to being present with each other and creates the time and space for connections to bloom or quiet thoughts to prevail. We are respectful of this new practice and are already more tuned in to each other.

Personally, I’ve made some additional changes to reclaim and repurpose time. While the lines between professional and personal online presence are blurred for many of us, I looked at how I was filling spare moments and challenged myself to decide whether it was time well spent. As a result, I’m more deliberate and focused on Twitter and LinkedIn, I’ve dropped out of Facebook, and I’ve reduced my Instagram circle to direct family. Not only have I freed up time, I have uncluttered my mind. For me there’s no downside. I don’t worry about missing out and I’m not curating my life anymore — I’m just living it.

Embracing analog occasions and being intentional about digital tools has helped make life more rich. My family’s digital reboot has already made a difference in our moods, our conversations, and the quality and quantity of time together. It’s all new, and there will be bumps along the way, but I believe we’re headed down the right path.

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Going tech-free one day a week

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

A key concept we teach in our Mindful Life Program is presence with technology; that is, awareness of the devices around you and their impact on your life. We ask you to ask yourself such questions as: When and why do you use technology? And: What would your life be like if you limited — or eliminated — technology?

Tiffany Shlain, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and founder of the Webby Awards, genuinely knows the answers. For the past six years, Shlain and her family have been observing “Technology Shabbats,” 24 hours of sweet unpluggedness from Friday to Saturday evenings. As Shlain describes in the video below, the one screen-free day each week is now a sacred ritual that boosts her appreciation not only for her family, but also for technology itself.

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