By Michael Harris-Arzon, The Simplistic Professional
The holiday season is a time for catching up with old friends, enjoying the company of family and most importantly, taking time for ourselves from the outrageously, busy days we face on a regular basis. Because, gone are the days when dad would come home from the office, to find his family and dinner waiting at the table. Typically, both parents now work and the kids tend to have schedules that are just as consuming as we parents, mainly due to extracurricular actives like clubs, community service and sports.
Simple conversation about that day’s happenings were common place around the dining room table and it was the primary point of engagement between family members. We talked about the upcoming school play or this weekend’s soccer game and Dad’s new promotion at work. Now, we send text messages that are short and uninviting as our way of communicating with each other. We can’t hear the tone of voice or see the body language and facial expressions that used to give us a clear picture behind the conversation.
On a number of different occasions I have talked about simple ways to engage guests while entertaining. Things like, having a device free table. Where all those dining, place their phones into a designated basket until the event is over. Or, by having each guest help with a specific task relating to the evenings festivities.
Another great way to engage those dining with you is serve the meal Family Style. Whenever I have guests for dinner that I do not know well, I tend to offer a couple of options as to the main course and for vegetables and sides I try to make them a little more complex and elaborate than a typical Tuesday night dinner. That way, your guests are more likely to enjoy the meal if they have a religious or dietary preference. And by serving the meal Family Style, you engage through out the entire meal, in little ways. It may be a simple request to pass the green beans that gets two, previous, strangers striking up a conversation.
The more advanced our technology becomes and the busier we get as professionals, each instance should act to remind us all, that we need to look back at previous generations and take queue’s from their daily family and social structures / rituals. As a society, we tend to evolve in every way and whenever we can, because we think it is better than the past.
But, we are now seeing more families taking aways the smart phones and substituting simple, traditional phones and planning entire vacations that are device free. The reasoning behind all of this is that we see the tremendous decrease in familial engagement and if that is so, then it stands to reason that our other personal and professional relationships are suffering and could stand to have a rewinding of the clock.