Why you might need the experience of living with strangers

Posted on Jan 27, 2014 | 1 comment

The problem in today`s world isn`t that we have too many people in our lives, it`s that we don`t have enough.”       Keith Ferrazzi

With our increased mobility and the emphasis on individuality, plus the ever increasing media distractions available to us, we lead lives of relative isolation.

Even though financial or career success might not be a stranger to you, happiness might still be around the corner and you`re not the only one experiencing this.

In the western culture individuality is the new religion. Achieve. Do. Get results. This is our daily mantra.

Be the best and you`ll be admired. Nothing wrong with that, but there`s an important element missing: true connection with other people. This is becoming especially true in the case of digital age professionals who spend more time at the computer than with other people.

We marvel when we hear about poorer societies that have higher degrees of happiness (can you really measure happiness?). They have close to nothing and still manage to be happier than us. Could the reason be a sense of belonging, a richer social life? I remember my friend in India telling me how he loves the fact that he knows all of his neighbors from his huge condo building. Or how many of his friends came back to India after not being able to adapt to the “cold” style of Europeans. How many of your neighbors do you know?



Are you a loner?

It`s now very easy to be alone. It`s easy to escape the physical presence of other people and you might want to do just that sometimes. You might even feel the side-effects of individuality and relative social isolation.

Maybe sometimes you feel more comfortable staying at home and watching a movie than going out for a beer with a friend? Maybe you always find excuses when you have to go out? Or you may feel uncomfortable if you`re surrounded by too many people for too long? Most of us will answer with a shy yes to those questions.

It`s not surprising, then, that you get used to living by yourself. You even get used to spending 10 hours or more in the presence of tablets, computers and smartphones, but I argue that more happiness comes from spending more time with other people.



Co-living – a way to get out of your comfort zone


So how do we fix this?

I`m not going to insist on co-working, people have been working together for ages. Co-working is just something freelancers and people who work from home tend to miss. Yes, it`s much better to be surrounded by people, even if you stare at a computer all day long, but what I want to emphasize is co-living.

I never really quite managed to live alone somewhere. The deepest and darkest hours are the one during the night. Not that you`d necessarily want to talk to someone, but the mere presence of another being is calming. No matter how much I drowned that lonely feeling I got in movies, work, Facebook or music, it still came back, fiercer and fiercer.

There are also few things that are nicer than a shared meal, especially if it is a cooked one, shared in an intimate space with friends, and even more so, with strangers.  And there are few things as energizing as enjoying your breakfast in the morning sun with good friends, planning out the day.

There`s one thing we can affirm without a doubt, we are social beings. Why, then, we choose to separate from others?

You need the comfortable, informal and intimate kind of relationships that make your life richer.

You probably need to let more people into your life. Co-living is one way to do it. A bit uncomfortable at first, because you need to start to learn to share and live with other people, but addictive in the end. It takes you out of your cocoon and creates the environment for sharing and deep communication.

You can`t really ignore someone with whom you live for a month or more and you might even turn him or her into a dear friend. It often happens. If you`re a loner, you`ll become used to having people around and it will enrich your life. If you`re not, you`ll thrive in the company of others because that`s exactly the kind of environment you probably love.

Are there other things that you can do? Of course:

  • Make a small change in your lifestyle, try sharing your office with someone.
  • Share lunch, dinner, or breakfast with a friend, even with someone you don`t know that well, especially with someone you don`t know that well.
  • Connect and socialize more. Make an effort to reach out and talk to people.  Do it as a personal experiment. See how that goes. Smiling more might help.
  • Become a mentor or be an appreciative mentee, and who knows, maybe you`ll even win new friends.
  • Share your flat with someone.
  • Go on longer trips with close friends.
  • Come to a co-working and co-living event (shameless self-promotion).

And whatever you do, don`t forget you`re human and that humans have eyes, mouths, skin, a voice, and that they were probably not designed solely for interacting with a computer.



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1 Comment

  1. Thank you for this brilliant, true and motivating article! I often noticed the increased individualism of our society and was upset over this tendency. Then again, I was brought up in this spirit from day one and I am used to it, hold on to it even. I guess one needs to reach a balance between the two and try to create that also is best suited to your personality.

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