Updated: Oct 31, 2019
Social isolation and loneliness are becoming epidemics, and we should all be concerned. Loneliness leads to depression and anger, which can result in violence or suicide. Do your part to cure social isolation by practicing notice, act, check back.
Notice when someone is part of a group but never part of the conversation. Just because someone goes to lunch with the same coworkers every day doesn’t mean they aren’t lonely. Just because everyone is nice to a kid at school doesn’t mean they aren’t sitting home alone every weekend.
We’ve become very good at looking busy by staring at our phone screens. They’re the perfect crutch in awkward situations where everyone but you is interacting with someone else. We need to notice these situations and act.
Having the courage to act means asking for everyone’s opinion, not just a select few. It means inviting someone out for coffee or dinner. It means giving someone your time by giving them your full attention. Include them in an activity.
You can’t expect someone to know you care about them if you only reach out once. You need to check back and follow up. Invite them out for coffee again. Find out what they enjoy doing and ask if you can join in. Check out a new band or restaurant together. Make sure you have a real conversation. Put the screens away!
Be patient. People with anxiety and disabilities have communication barriers that aren’t always noticeable. Someone with hearing loss, for example, might not respond if they don’t hear your question. They aren’t being rude, they simply didn’t hear you. Someone with sensory issues might not be able to focus in a loud environment. They can’t have a conversation when their body is in fight or flight mode. Be understanding and remember that everyone wants to be included and valued. We just can’t all do it in the same way.
Being together reminds us that we aren’t alone and that others care about us. Loneliness and social isolation are 100% curable if we notice, act, check back.
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