I spent the single most unproductive hour of my month having tea with a comparatively new friend. Wouldn’t have changed that for the world: there is something energising, nourishing, exciting about nattering over tea. If I did nothing in that hour – and I absolutely did nothing – then the hour after it was far more productive because of taking that time.
So I’m keen on tea. And there was cake this time: chocolate is my Kryptonite.
But there wa also friendship. I read somewhere that we tend to keep our friends for around seven years. I can think of people I’ve been close to for longer but I was a little reassured by this idea of natural moving on because I’ve lost a lot of pals and it could be argued that they tended to disappear on me after about that time. So it’s not me. And it’s not them.
I think it might be me, though. So I was taken with this piece from the always superb Brain Pickings:
We call “friends” peers we barely know beyond the shallow roots of the professional connection, we mistake mere mutual admiration for friendship, we name-drop as “friends” acquaintances associating with whom we feel reflects favorably on us in the eyes of others, thus rendering true friendship vacant of Emerson’s exacting definition. We have perpetrated a corrosion of meaning by overusing the word and overextending its connotation, compressing into an imperceptible difference the vast existential expanse between mere acquaintanceship and friendship in the proper Aristotelian sense.
Reclaiming friendship – Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – 16 August 2016
She’s talking about reclaiming the word friendship and I read that also as making a stand for how important friendship is. Being Brain Pickings, Popova does as ever gather insightful quotes and detail from great minds but also as ever, what she says herself is arresting. Have a read of her full piece.
I write a personal blog called Self Distract every Friday and today’s one, intended to be just an aside and a musing on things if not necessarily amusing about anything, has caused some comments. Lots of nice things but also people identifying with its topic.
That topic was about conversation and how when we talk to friends, we have to make it a joint, two-way thing. Let me set the scene:
Okay, you may have trouble swallowing this considering how I go on at you every week. But when we meet in person, I am infinitely – infinitely – more interested in you than I am in me. Have I said this to you before? I tell you everything, I must’ve mentioned it: my attitude when nattering away with someone is that I know all about me, I was there, I saw me do it, let’s talk about you.
Truly, time spent talking about me is wasted and boring. I’m not knocking myself, I’m just not interested and I have plenty of time to know me, I might get only minutes with you. And look at you: look at all you’re doing, all you know that I don’t, how could I possibly waste any time talking about me?
I got told off for this today.
It’s not you, it’s me – William Gallagher, Self Distract (6 March 2015)
Read the full piece for what happened – and, much more interestingly, how it might ring some bells with yo.
Also, everybody is so interesting. But as well as that, nattering is a way of thinking and focusing and learning and listening. And this all helps us as people, it very helps us as writers despite this contorted sentence. It even helps our productivity:
Increase your social life by talking to everyone
It doesn’t take a group of scientists to explain that spending time with people is beneficial for our health. Our emotions alone remind us of how relaxing and joyful it was to spend quality time with someone. Psychologist John Cacioppo once mentioned in his book, Loneliness, that, “loneliness isn’t some personality defect or sign of weakness. It’s a survival impulse like hunger or thirst, a trigger pushing us toward the nourishment of human companionship.”
We’re not immune to the feelings of isolation and despite what we think, it’s necessary to speak to a variety of people throughout the day. (Even if it has to be the weird store clerk who gives us a blank stare).
If you have a hard time expressing your thoughts to people or experience shy behaviors, become interested in what they’re saying rather than focusing on being an interesting person. Don’t concentrate about impressing someone with your intellects and instead, listen to what they have to say. Most of the time, people will always prefer talking about themselves when given the chance and you can learn a lot about them by asking questions and being genuine.
12 ways to boost your productivity – Michael Gregory II, Self Development Workshop (4 March 2015)
This is actually number 1 in a series of 12 suggestions for being more productive. I don’t know what the other 11 are yet because I came straight here to talk to you about this one. Read the full piece for the rest.