At a time when many livelihoods have been destroyed and others under threat it is only natural to revert to interacting more with our closest family and friends and withdrawing from more loose social connections. Much of this has happened naturally as our favourite restaurants and pubs closed. However, now more than ever before it is crucial to reach out and reconnect.
For people who have lost their job the research is undeniable – new opportunities come from our loose connections rather than our closest relationships. Small business owners who are seeking to recover their client base are more likely to find new and better revenue streams by reigniting old connections. For those of us who are fortunate enough to be in a financially secure position why not reach out to see how we can help you never know where that next opportunity will come from.
Given the need throughout our communities reaching out to people is one of the best ways to help build resilience during difficult times. Our grandparents who lived through the World Wars and the Great Depression understood that. They knew their neighbours, had no problem offering genuine help even if it was a home cooked meal and understood the value of coming together to work for the common good. Building close communities begins with individuals reaching out and looking to give a helping hand. Many of us are more than happy to help but frequently don’t know who is in need. A study carried out showed that 77% of Australians never talk to the people next door and do not know much about them. People are busy, but now is the time to build safer more supportive neighbourhoods. Not knowing your neighbour might be fine when you are healthy with a steady job. But to live in supportive communities that can rebound faster and are safer for families it really comes down to making the time to say hi. Is it any surprise that studies are showing an increase in loneliness and mental health issues in Australia? We can make a difference, and now is the time to act. Reverse the trend in your neighbourhood to by looking for ways to interact, help or just have a good chat.
All of us will know at least someone who is more vulnerable in these situations. That may be a mental health issue, it may be a financial challenge but whatever the difficulty frequently a simple conversation can make all the difference. Government will never be able to replace a friendly phone call from an old friend, and frankly should not try. Australians have always been able to pull together in a time of need. So, if you know someone why not reach out?
What stops most people is that moment of discomfort in reaching out. In a study published by MITSoloan 90% of people who reached out to reactive dormant connections indicated that it was an overwhelmingly positive experience. The benefits to business, career and one’s personal life and the success rate is staggering yet an often-overlooked source of inspiration. Whilst many of us will avoid social awkwardness like the plague… or the Coronavirus the reality is that now is the perfect time to reignite old connections. That small innocent excuse for saying hello can be as simple as asking how they are going given COVID-19.
Instead of doing the overworked Facebook post on their birthday try something more personalised, not transactional. Be selective about who you want to relight that old friendship with, bring up that fond memory you have or shared experience to start the conversation.
For young professionals’ collaboration and networking is generally front and centre but frequently overlooked are those old connections developed at university or even school. Often your old school mate might just be the one who could be the progenitor of a new idea or future business partner. Donald Rumpsfield the former U.S. Defence Secretary famously stated that:
“you don’t know what you don’t know”. Nothing more could be truer with those old friendships and work colleagues that you lost touch with.
You can sit at home with a glass of wine contemplating what you’ll do when shutdown ends, or you could phone that old friend of yours, former work college or even text that mentor that made a difference for you back in the day. Chances are they will appreciate it and you never know what might come next.
Jason Falinski MP is the Federal Member for Mackellar.