There’s something in the air that has me seeking out conversation. Maybe it’s my more intense than usual interest in the presidential primaries, maybe it’s a little bit of early spring fever (since we did have a big snow storm and now sort of a thaw here in the foothills of North Carolina), or maybe it’s just that time of year in my work cycle, where I’m home more days, and longer periods during the day, than during that busy time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Whatever it is, I find I’ve been reaching out to people, scheduling lunches with friends and other work-at-home editors, just to have some face to face talk time.
I might score as an introvert on the Myers Briggs personality test, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love to talk. One on one, or in small groups, I can talk for hours. And I like good conversation, not polite small talk. I am the one who learns all about a mom’s worry about her daughter’s future and subsequent acceptance to the North Carolina School of the Arts from a complete stranger at a Halloween party, while others come away knowing nothing more about the people in attendance than what they came as and why.
That’s why it’s so disappointing to me to hear that the art of conversation is dying in our country, thanks to the prolific use of smartphones and other devices. A Google search with the words “conversation dying art” immediately brings up pages worth of articles on this very topic. But there’s nothing better for the soul than a great conversation with someone, one where you share ideas, debate different points and end up walking away feeling inspired. Sherry Turkle, author of Reclaiming Conversation, uses conversation as her organizing principle because so much of what we value in humanity is threatened when replaced with electronic devices. She states that it’s only through face to face conversation that you feel truly connected to people and gain empathy.
This is all something that is very important to me as a person who works from home. Gone are the days of having conversations with co-workers about Trump’s second place finish in Iowa or the best way to cook a pot roast. I admit I have found myself leaning on Facebook for “interactions” with other people during the long, silent work days. But I realize that is not enough, and it isn’t enough for anyone, no matter how much of an introvert you consider yourself.
So here are the ways I make sure I still have conversation in my life, tips that I think are important for most people who work at home.
Make time to talk with your spouse.
If you happen to work at home you are married, you have built-in conversation as soon as your spouse comes home. I remember reading a long time ago in a John Rosemond article that it sends a good signal to your kids that you value your marriage if you take a few minutes right after work each day to talk to each other, the two of you adults, before turning your focus to your kids. So for us in the work-at-home crowd, it’s a win/win. You get a positive for your marriage and some much-needed adult conversation.
Foster friendships in your community.
For me, I live in a small town, and there aren’t a lot of other people who do what I do. But there are plenty of people who have flexible schedules and can get together during the day. Whether it’s people I’ve met at church or parents of my children’s friends, some socialization (with our without kids in tow) provides a great break from the mundane work day. And thankfully, my grandmother’s old rule that you don’t talk politics or religion in polite company doesn’t hold true with my friends. No subject is taboo, and I love the chance these outings give me to talk with others about books we’re reading, TV shows worth watching or even dive into the problems of our economy and the health of the people in our community.
Network with others in your profession.
This one can be harder if you’re isolated, but it’s so important. I make sure to keep up relationships with former colleagues, as well as joining professional groups and associations where I have the opportunity to meet others who do what I do. And then I make a point to get together, face to face, with these people. It might not be as often as I’d like, but those times are so rewarding. It’s a great opportunity to have conversations with others who care about things like the Oxford comma or struggle with figuring out their estimated taxes. We bounce ideas off each other, share information, and every time I come away with a confidence boost in my own work and inspired with new ideas.
The important thing is to get out and talk face to face. Email, texting and phone calls are great, and they’re the lifeblood of my communication in a work-at-home career. But Turkle is right, there is no substitute for interacting with another human being.