Modern technology, an increase in remote working and the rising popularity in social media means we are now having fewer face-to-face conversations than ever before.
In a world where we can now chat with our friends and family through apps, emails and texts, people are making less time to talk in person to those they care about. And with rising numbers working from home and shopping online, it is now quite possible to go for days at a time with no face-to-face communication at all.
This week is National Conversation Week, an initiative supported by mental health charity Mind and designed to encourage people to make more time to talk. So invite a friend round, make yourself comfy on your La-Z-Boy sofa and settle down for a good old chinwag.
Here are four reasons why you should look up from your smartphone and have a face-to-face chat with someone today:
Misunderstandings are rife in online communications as it can be very difficult to work out someone’s tone of voice when what they are saying is written down. Are they meaning to be rude or is their message abrupt because they are busy doing something else? Do they actually mean what they have said or is it sarcastic? Research suggests that body language makes up more than 90 per cent of human communication so it is a lot easier to understand what someone means when you can see their movements and facial expressions. Hearing tone of voice also makes it simpler for everyone involved in the conversation to interpret each other’s reactions and emotions.
If you want to talk to someone confidentially, a one-to-one conversation in person is much more private than instant messages or emails, which could potentially be read by someone else. When you chat to someone face to face, there is no record kept of what is said so people are more likely to feel they can confide in the other person. And if someone is upset or worried, the other person is on hand to provide support, give them a hug or offer practical help. One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives and talking about it to someone really can help.
Conversation helps build relationships and strengthen social connections but it can also help us feel happier too. Scientists have found that sharing personal information actually activates the brain’s reward pathway, boosting feelings of satisfaction and lowering stress levels. Being listened to also has benefits and can help us feel valued and cared for. Of course, it’s important that conversation is a two-way thing and that we listen as well as talk.
Social isolation is growing and according to the British Red Cross, more than 9 million adults in the UK are often or always lonely. Talking to other people, even if it is just having a chat with a stranger on the bus, can help us feel less isolated and more part of the community we live in. When we think of loneliness, we tend to think of older people but studies have found it is also a major problem for the younger generation who have fewer face-to-face interactions than people their age did in the past. When people only interact with others on social media, they can feel like everyone else is having a better and more exciting life than them, which can actually increase their feelings of loneliness and dissatisfaction.