Loneliness is More Dangerous than Smoking or Obesity
“Loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.” Douglas Nemecek
“… individuals with adequate social relationships have a 50% greater likelihood of survival compared to those with poor or insufficient social relationships.”
4 reasons you feel alone:
#1. You feel alone because you are alone.
Zoom meetings can’t replace skin. You’re going to die much sooner if you aren’t nourished with human contact.
I’m not encouraging you to touch everyone. I am encouraging you to respect the power of in-person contact, handshakes, and physical pats on the back.
#2. You feel alone because people don’t understand you.
No one thinks about your organization like leaders.
Perhaps it’s time to practice selective vulnerability and let yourself be seen.
#3. You isolate yourself.
When you’re a leader, getting away from people feels like a hog finding slop.
Quiet reflection produces vitality. Seclusion – as a habit of life – perverts thinking. “When people are isolated from human contact, their mind can do some truly bizarre things.” Michael Bond.
#4. You’re a control freak.
You don’t accept people for who they are. Eventually people avoid unnecessary contact with you.
7 ways to deal with leadership loneliness:
You are wired to connect.
Connected leaders feel stronger, more fulfilled, and make better decisions.
#1. Go for a walk.
Movement makes connecting more comfortable. Have walking one-on-ones.
#2. Turn smartphones off during face-to-face interaction.
#3. Be your true self and help others be their true selves.
#4. Don’t allow technology to replace in-person interactions.
#5. Chat with cashiers and other strangers.
#6. Find energizing ways to contribute.
The formula for unhappiness is simple. Expect people to serve you.
#7. Monitor inner chatter.
The most dangerous thoughts are the ones you repeatedly have but don’t notice. Habits of thought impact quality of life.
Speak to yourself as if you were speaking to a friend.
Why are leaders lonely?
What might help leaders overcome loneliness?
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How should this be update in light of Corona?
Thanks Mike. All the references for this post refer to pre-corona experience. If anything, the need to address isolation is more urgent than ever.
I thought about the physical touch aspect in relation to coronavirus, but decided not to include it. The implications seem obvious.
I’m glad you brought this up.
This stands out for me; #5. Chat with cashiers and other strangers. I saw my father and grandfathers do this for years and I’ve just morphed into it. It actually makes those cashiers, stockers and others smile that someone acknowledges them and talks to them, even if just a good morning.
Thanks Roger. I was reminded yesterday to maintain my habit of chatting with strangers. A leader and I had lunch at a small deli-style restaurant. While there, one of the patrons got on the floor and demonstrated a movement to his lunch buddy.
On our way out, I asked him what was happening. He explained it was a weightlifting move. We chatted briefly and left. It’s uplifting to everyone involved, once they get over the initial skepticism.
“One” is the loneliest number, Three Dog Night sang back in the 70’s ever so true.
I have found the turning phones off during one on one meetings does wonders with whom we communicate, it allows that sense of connectivity between people as compared to interrupting the conversation being a 3rd wheel, “I need to take this call” scenario. No you don’t they can wait!
I agree the technology use can separate people yet it can join people too, so on that note I say use what works, yet do make time for socialization and nurturing your needs for individual or group meetings outside of technology limits.
“People need people”, the purposes can be many, don’t isolate yourself unless medical conditions require it, other than that be all you can be with your network of family, friends and workers.
Thanks Tim. I appreciate your affirmation of turning off cellphones. And, thanks also for the respect for medical conditions during these days.
Outstanding post. As a school leader planing for the start of the year, this has so many applicable considerations. Adults and children have been “lonely” for several months now and we have to consider our social-emotional well being as a top priority when school resumes.
Thanks Joe. I wish you well as you plan your return to the classroom. I work with educational leaders and these are stressful times! I suppose stress might exacerbate loneliness. All the more reason to find ways to connect.
2-3-4-5-6 Love them. Sometimes in a restaurant (use them often), we will engage the server. Every now and then, we will find one attending college, studying, etc.trying to better themselves. On more than one occasion left a sizable tip with the instructions, (number 6)”This is to be used for your education”. Does my heart good to help someone who has the vision to help themselves and invest in the future, whether it is my industry or not. Of course discretion is always used.
Thanks Ron. Perhaps finding small ways to connect spills over into other areas. 🙂
Wow such a powerful post, thanks Dan. What I try to do is smile engagingly with servers, strangers at the gym etc. even if I don’t spark up a chat, it’s lovely watching the response. Separately I also try to smile in every email I send – even when I’m not having a good day – and it’s remarkable what a positive approach returns. I guess this is my way of approaching #6 and #7.
#2 selectively express vulnerability to be seen – that is such a powerful tool, and requires personal confidence and especially trust in the team and organisation, sadly often missing.
Thanks Greg. Sometimes I adopt the smile strategy. Try smiling big enough that it makes people wonder what you are smiling about. 🙂
If we’re seeking suitable rock music quotes, is this the time to reference Ian Hunter’s “You’re Never Alone with a Schizophrenic”?
More seriously, trying to replace chronic lack of meaningful human contact with talking to cashiers (who want you out of the way as fast as possible) is like using bandaids to fix an aortic aneurysm.
I do wonder about bringing the true self – in most of the organisations I’ve been in, the training/onboarding/development process is all about suppressing the true self to make a “company person”.
Thanks Mitch. Love the quote. I’ve been mulling over a short series of post based on song lyrics!!
You are right that loneliness is a serious problem. Sometimes small steps lead to hoped for solutions.
I hope that leaders are learning that people bring their best selves to work when they are encouraged to be their true selves. But, as you indicate, the goal of some organizations is to beat the life out of people. I think Drucker complained that most management was about making work harder.
With no slur intended to any member of any armed force, it’s a bit like the old proverb that there’s the right way, the wrong way and the army way. The “company” way is usually like the right way, but slower, more involved, much more convoluted and vastly more expensive…