“Communication does not work when two people speak at the same time.” – African Proverb
We are social beings, and interacting is inherently a part of our nature. Through our interactions, we affect and inspire one another in ways that are both necessary and mysterious for our flourishing. Overall, our development – be it social, emotional, cognitive or personal – flows from our interactions. We begin our lives with interactions, and we learn how to connect to one another through them. It is the foundation upon which we build our lives, such that if we do not learn how to interact rightly from an early age we may never get it right at all.
Interacting is a social phenomenon. This notion is not incidental to relationships; it is their essence. The human being is an engine of interaction. We may be individuals, but our individualities end when we lend ourselves fully to the cosmos of relationships right from birth. We live through others, dependent yet alone; with a sense that we are somehow a part of the whole and the whole is a part of us, because we all belong to each other and to something even larger and less comprehensible. Our interactions help us to understand and explore the complexities, varieties and contradictions of life, and our search for truth, meaning, and transcendence through the interwoven lives of others.
It is our interactions which enable us to even have our thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences. Without them, we are dead at birth. From our mothers to the nuclear family, and to the extended one and to friends, our interactions provide the foundation for our relationships. This is because as we interact with one another, we learn from one another, form connections, support each other, and seek our sense of self-esteem from our shared experiences.
This conveys the importance of our interactions, highlighting how they serve as vital components of our emotional and intellectual well-being. Therefore, they deserve thorough examination and should not be disregarded as a trivial notion. Indeed, who we are and who we become depends on those we interact with, especially the individuals and groups that inspire us. That is why interacting with people without knowing how to do it right hurts them.
Thus, it matters whom we interact with and who interacts with us. It is not just a matter of networks and relationships. When we interact with others, something inside us demands that they interact with us back… and in the right way. We want our interactions to be tangible so we can be sure they are meaningful, and if possible fruitful. This reminds us about the importance of getting our acts right before we ideally inspire and nurture others.
There are infinitely many kinds of interactions, but to make ours beautiful and purposeful we should work on ourselves. We need to appreciate how interacting with others offers opportunities for our personal growth and self-reflection – through feedback, constructive criticism and diverse perspectives. We should learn to be open-minded so that we can learn more about ourselves, identify areas for improvement, and use the lessons and advice of others to develop our social skills and emotional intelligence.
The bulk of life, like beauty, is best illuminated by the sidewise gleam of learning from others. As we spend our lives trying to discern where we end and the rest of the world begins, we must not mistake chance for choice; our classifications and patterns of trends for the trends themselves; our stories for history; and our understanding as science. After all, meaning is not necessarily what happens, but what survives after we have passed judgments and formed opinions of what it should have been.
Our interactions ensure that our lives interweave with other lives, and out of the arena arise lessons that help us to build character, contentment and an appreciation of transcendence. They empower us like engines to experience emotional support, intimacy and a sense of shared humanity. They contribute to our overall well-being and help combat feelings of loneliness or isolation, so we need to be purposeful with our interactions…
Kodwo Brumpon is a partner at Brumpon & Kobla Ltd., a forward-thinking Pan African management consultancy and social impact firm driven by data analytics, with a focus on understanding the extraordinary potential and needs of organisations and businesses to help them cultivate synergies which catapult them into their strategic growth and certify their sustainability.
Comments, suggestions and requests for talks and training should be sent to him at [email protected] kobla.com