“Compartmentalize”! Isn’t this the advice that most prudent people have been giving to mere mortals? Yup! That has been the norm for the ‘wise of the world’ to manage one’s life – keep them separate; don’t mix different domains of your life. But is it possible? Is it possible in a world where the boundaries between workplace and home are more overlapping than ever before? Is it possible in an era where people are uprooting themselves and migrating, and thus often workplace is the only ‘social circle’ they are a part of? And even if it is possible, the question is “Is it possible all the time?” or “Is it possible for everyone?”
Well, of course, it is logical that it is better to be friendly with colleagues rather than making them friends. It saves us from various issues like ‘conflict of interest’, ‘biases’ and ‘lack of professionalism’. However, if this fine line of ‘being friendly but not friends’ is not easy to follow then on any day it is better to make friends than to be unattached, distant or strictly professional. Before we discuss this point in details, watch this video to get the gist of what we are discussing, why it is important, and how it is relevant in professional and personal context…
Yes, Interpersonal connections are important determinant of individual performance. Safe human-contact is important for all aspects of our life. That’s what leads to sense of belonging, cohesion, and sustained motivation. In other words, we are wired to connect; and if this primary human-need for connection is not fulfilled then it has an adverse effect on people’s performance and behavior. Moreover, if this relatedness is discouraged or prohibited, a form of loneliness gets developed inside the person, which later gets manifested in the form of frustration or burnout. Well, like for any behavior, the root of this point lies in neuroscience.
If we will look at our brain then we will find that our brain continuously keeps appraising people around us for who is on our side and who isn’t. As social animals, connections have been so vital to our survival that the lower layers of our brain – Brainstem and Limbic-networks – spot an interpersonal threat in 1/5th of a second and apprise us subliminally, way before our conscious awareness kicks in. When safe social connections are established then hypothalamus, a part of our brain, produces feel-good chemicals which are secreted in the bloodstream through pituitary gland.
On the other hand, in absence of safe social connections, brain generates a threat response which, in layman terms, we call ‘feeling lonely’. So if a person is discouraged for building interpersonal connections, the person will get deprived of feel-good chemicals. Moreover, in line with what author David Rock says, due to increased overall activation in brain, they won’t be able to perceive subtle signals required to solve non-linear problems, and will also end up perceiving small stressors as large ones. In all, their effectiveness is likely to go down.
To acknowledge this and do the needful, social & emotional intelligence is needed. This ‘emotional & social intelligence’ is about one’s understanding of the structure and functioning of human brain, and how they affect our behaviors and choices. This combination of neuroscience and psychology builds the foundation for developing emotional & social intelligence – the skill of managing self and connecting with others. Yes, this all-important skill of all intrapersonal & interpersonal skills can be learnt, practiced and mastered. However, it all begins with some important realizations like…“Interpersonal connections are important determinant of individual performance”.
Dr. Sandeep Atre
‘Emotional & Social Intelligence’ Expert
Founder – Socialigence
Note: Socialigence (www.socialigence.net) offers self-paced video-based online course on ‘Social & Emotional Intelligence’ with content that has relevance across the globe, and delivery specifically customized according to the work-scenarios in India.