The Headphone Generation
Every second person I see on the street usually wears earphones. What are they listening to? Why is it essential that they have to listen to something as they walk from their workplace to the bus stop or train station? Can’t they at least wait until they board the bus or train? I think the reason they wear earphones is to block out the world.
R U OK Day
People now go to work and sit in front of their computer wearing headphones. I guess it means they don’t have to talk to their colleagues. I noticed that September 30 was national R U OK Day. R U OK is a charity that encourages people to make sure that their friends and colleagues are feeling okay, and not suffering depression. The RU OK website states, ‘Staying connected and having meaningful conversations is something we can all do. You don't need to be an expert – just a great mate and a good listener. So, if you notice someone who might be struggling – start a conversation. Conversations need to happen every day.’ What a strange world we live in that we now have to instruct people to talk to their colleagues and neighbours. We need to advise people that ‘conversations need to happen every day’, otherwise some people would keep those headphones on 24/7 and forget that other people live on this planet.
The Choice to Live in Cyber Space
Why do some people prefer to live in these artificial ‘cyber’ spaces rather than interact with real people? The irony is that scientists are now making Chatbots. A Chatbot is a computer program that talks to you either with an electronic voice or it texts you. These programs are designed to convincingly stimulate how a human would conduct a conversation. Basically they are conversational software programs driven by algorithmic scripts. This means that people who wear earphones and live on screens can ‘talk’ to their devices and avoid all human contact!
Chatbots Taking Over
The English IT company, Oracle, did a survey this year and found that 80 percent of senior marketing and sales professionals expect to be using chatbots for customer interaction in four years. Okay, so let me get this straight, we are struggling to find enough jobs for young people in most western countries and a percentage of the community is lonely, depressed and starving for human interaction and yet marketing companies are rolling out Chatbots and replacing people. Why? Well, according to The Business Times chatbots promise to be cheaper, faster and better than their human alternative.
It is bad enough that when I go to the supermarket I have to serve myself. I do not get to engage with another person, no one asks me how I am, but soon my days will be filled with countless conversations with robots. I’m not looking forward to this.
The Power of Real Relationships
One thing I’ve learned in business is that half the time it’s not what you know but who you know. You will complete a project or win a contract because you know someone who understands that area implicitly and can give you more information for your tender, project or pitch. Yes, I am a networker. I believe in making friends and getting to know as many people as possible, because one day you just might need to know someone who works in electronic engineering, web design, conveyancing or television post-production. I’m a public speaker. I could easily get a call asking me to come out and motivate a team of conveyancers! In this instance it would be incredibly helpful to know a conveyancer and learn more about the industry because I go to their workplace.
Networking is really about people enjoying other people, communicating their interests and connecting with others. It’s about listening, learning and making friends. The most successful networkers build honest, caring relationships and give more than they receive. They are not thinking “What’s in it for me?” but rather “How can I help?”
Engaging in Real Conversations
By talking and listening to people, you can begin to build lasting relationships and earn a reputation for being emotionally generous rather than self-serving or selfish. Make it your goal to be open, friendly and honest and seek out human interaction. Make it your mission to discover the worth of every person you meet. We are all God’s children. Ask questions and listen with interest. Don’t make the mistake of discounting people because you think they are old, unimportant or boring. Someone you meet may ‘just’ be a receptionist or admin person, but they may have valuable connections and knowledge they can share with you.
I was ashamed of myself earlier this year. I met a woman who had a very homely look. I automatically thought that she’d spent most of her life in the Australian suburbs, raising children and we wouldn’t have a great deal in common, but this woman worked for years on the New York Stock Exchange and boy, did she have tales to tell. She also knew all sorts of amazing people!
I do not belong to the earphone generation. I do not block out the real world by wearing headphones, looking at screens and chatting to Chatbots. Sorry Siri, but you are not the one for me. If I have a chance to get to know someone new I take the opportunity and find out as much about them as I can. I advise you to do the same, because (1) they may be a beautiful person and their company may be a gift sent your way, (2) this person may one day be a useful business connection and (3) it is basic human decency to show an interest in those around us – people need caring for, people need social interaction and people need to talk to people who are intelligent and real.
Sorry Chatbots, you will never fill that role so get back in your box!
ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.