Friendship Proves Essential for Resiliency

Tomorrow marks the 22nd anniversary of the death of our beloved brother-in-law, Noam Pitlik. An Emmy-award-winning comedy director, Noam produced such television classics like Barney Miller, Taxi, and Mr. Belvedere. My sister Susan and Noam fought his cancer with love, laughter, and surrounded by our family and friends who fed them, hugged them, laughed with them, and cried with them.

Although I didn’t know the research at the time, a strong support network offered a safety net for the subsequent heartbreak to heal.

It’s a fallacy to think that resilience is the equivalent of being singularly strong, full of grit and determination. In fact, according to Lydia Denworth, author of Friendship- The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond,  at least one good friend is essential for survival.  Without that social network, Denworth states that an individual will not be resilient but can also have an earlier death.  Social isolation increases the chance of death by 26%, loneliness by 29%, and living alone by 32%.

These are critical statistics as we continue to work remotely. In fact, some organizations have decided to make this a permanent practice until further notice. While it might be a cost-effective strategy, there is a huge price to pay in disconnection, a lack of engagement, and yes—loneliness.

Consider these actions to mitigate some of this physical distancing:

For organizations:

  1. Make check-in calls to team members as important as filing a productivity report. But the question should not be, “how are you?” but rather, “what’s happening in your world right now—on the job?  At home? Where can I be of help? What do you need from me?”  And then LISTEN.
  2. When doing virtual team calls, use an external moderator who can create different kinds of interactions that allow the participants to get a glimpse of all the players—and not just a name.

Take turns inviting participants to share something of their life that no one would ever guess. How well I remember doing just that (when we could be face-to-face) and the team was astounded to discover that the quiet librarian spent a few weeks riding ponies with the Mongols on the steppes of China!

  1. Have a brew-ti-ful morning gathering where folks come with their favorite morning beverage and just have 15 minutes of conversation. Yes—some folks will want to pass and that’s ok. The idea is that the managers recognize that relationships are built in literally being with each other.

For individuals:

  1. Be a friend to get a friend. Whom do you want in your corner when you need to celebrate, need to cry, need encouragement? If you haven’t made that connection, what is stopping you?
  2. Consider ways to safely gather with work or neighbor colleagues. Coming together has never been more important
  3. Create a game night with family and/or friends. Here is a ready resource for you. I love Words with Friends because it makes me think so differently.
  4. Write gratitude letters. Fascinating how holding a handwritten note goes a long way in creating a connection. When you begin to make a list of the people whom you are thankful for, you’ll be surprised at the names that appear.  As an added bonus, you’ll be energized in the process.  Start with maybe 1 or 2 people. Watch how that connection list grows.. and with it, your resiliency support network.
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