Ari Sytner

Are there too Many Choices for Communication?

Posted by in Parenting, Relationships & Marriage

It seems today we are bombarded with more options than ever before, and the truth is, we crave them. When I buy a car, I want to make sure I can get the most number of options available, so that I have the choice to not use any of them!

When it comes to dating, there are so many avenues that one can take, that it only adds to the confusion. In some cases, it even prevents people from taking that important step forward, as they are more obsessed with considering alternatives, than committing to the one person they love.

When I was a child, I recall a sign hanging in many kitchens which read:

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Having many choices feels great, but it often gets in our way. I have found the same phenomenon when it comes to digital communication. Whenever I schedule a meeting online with someone, we find ourselves in this awkward dance. Should we call, Skype, FaceTime, Blab, email, Periscope, Google Hangout Webex, Viber, G-Chat or Facebook?! It can be so overwhelming, especially in light of so many new options being added each week. In the end, while we like having choices, too many does not really help anyone.

I have found that most people are just technologically not on the same page. If you’re like me, you prefer to keep your Skype and FaceTime address books for only friends and relatives. Some people don’t mind giving out their cell numbers, and others prefer to only speak from their office phone. As some of us only use Mac and others Windows, some on iPhone and others on Android - this chaotic world of communication options only discourages direct and meaningful contact. As I conduct a great deal of online trainings and communications, I have been searching to find a way to go back to basics and communicate without going through that awkward dance of asking people what platforms they are on, or suggesting that they first download software, apps, plugins and updates.

Thankfully, I am back to basics! While I always prefer face-to-face communication, I have been pleasantly surprised by how simple it is to just use a free web-based service like www.freeconference.com. For starters, what I like is that nobody has to download software! You can just have a regular call or conference call, or even a video chat with multiple participants that can see each other. (Personally, I use lots of slides and demonstrations, so I enjoy the screen-sharing and recording).

My biggest pet peeve, however, on conference calls, is when multiple people speak at the same time, then apologize for interrupting and awkwardly remain quiet. Inevitably, after that uncomfortable silence, they all chime in again at the exact same time (and you know exactly who you are, because we’ve all done it)!

This type of simple platform gives me the ability to visually see who is on a call, allow for a real-time chat box, and even allow participants to “raise their hand” in order to speak.  Plus, I can mute that one person who has screaming kids, or the TV playing in the background.

The bottom line is that communication is easier today than during any prior generation in history, and it really should be more convenient for people to just connect. However, while we have more options than ever (and the technology is quite awesome) we should not take it for granted, nor let it inhibit our connections. The best solution is to choose a universal platform and stick with it.

Remember, communicating effectively is about connecting with other people. We should, therefore, try to take whatever steps possible to remove any barriers that slow us down, and instead, jump at the opportunity to enjoy a fluid and meaningful exchange of ideas.

For a Free Guide on how to Overcome Digital Distraction Click here4 tips

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Self-Improvement 101: How to Fill the Negative Spaces

Posted by in Addiction, Relationships & Marriage

Change is hard. Who doesn’t enjoy settling into a comfortable routine? However, when a person is finally motivated to break their mold and strive for self-improvement, the shackles of our habits can be debilitating.

It is for that reason that I look forward to the Jewish High Holidays, which give me an opportunity to look at my habits – both good and bad take a personal inventory of how I can improve.

However, beware the trap of the negative space!

When a person digs deeper and deeper, chiseling away at the parts of themselves they wish to change, they will eventually be left with a gaping hole. For example, if a person decides to reduce their laziness and increase productivity, they may find themselves successfully cutting out TV, movies, Facebook and other distractions. However, if they are not filling that extra time by focusing on meaningful tasks and goals, they will likely fail altogether when the boredom takes hold and catapults them back to their previous ways.

To illustrate this phenomenon, imagine your dentist discovers a pretty nasty cavity in your molar. After drilling, scraping and hollowing out the tooth, the dentist proudly reports that the cavity is gone. However, let’s be honest, until the hole in your tooth is properly filled, you’re just not out of the woods.

The same idea applies to self-improvement. It is insufficient to simply cut out the negative behaviors if we do not replace them with positive ones.

Consider how many intelligent and determined people have failed at diets for this reason. They decided it was time to get healthy, banished all fried foods, butter, trans fats, red meat, eggs, salt, sugar, mayo and of course, ice cream. Yes, they had the right idea, “cut out all of the bad stuff”. However, if there is no an alternate plan to substitute healthy menus for every meal, they will likely crash and burn when hunger gets the best of them.

Research on addiction has pointed to the same conclusion. People who wish to quit smoking, drinking, gambling, gaming, shopping, pornography, overeating – all have the same challenge. They will put 90% of their self-control and energies towards NOT engaging in a particular behavior. However, instead of only focusing on the negative, if they were to also expend a great deal of energy pursuing positive behaviors, they would more likely succeed simply because they are busy chasing their dreams and ambitions.

It is for this reason that Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12-Step programs, put such an emphasis on the many levels of personal growth beyond just the value of “quitting”. By discovering and pursuing one’s spiritual self, a person is more likely to engage in meaningful relationships and seek life-goals that are inherently motivating, fulfilling and rewarding.

Sure, becoming a better person can be a huge undertaking! However, if overcoming my challenges compel me to focus positively on my dreams, then my weaknesses actually become the greatest of life's gifts! (Think about it).

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Technology Overload: What is Real Anymore?

Posted by in Addiction, Parenting, Relationships & Marriage

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It was a beautiful Labor Day weekend and I decided to take my children fishing. As I stood with them at the water’s edge, I tried to let go of all of my responsibilities, work and social media connections. I proudly watched my children as they were trolling for sunfish and feeding the geese. It was truly a beautiful moment in time.

Then it happened!!

I heard the chirp. That high pitched tweeting sound that pulled me right back into the world of social media. For a moment, I felt angry. It was that stupid app, which was now robbing me of the opportunity to enjoy life, family and nature. No longer could I appreciate the sites of the children, birds and the water. I suddenly found myself traveling down a technology black hole, as I was eager to check my phone. I tried to resist the urge to take out my phone and look to see who tweeting. However, before I knew it I heard the tweeting sound again and could not resist.

As feelings of guilt took hold of me, I reached into my pocket and looked at my phone. Surprisingly, the screen was blank. I checked again, only to realize that there were no tweets, messages or alerts. I was baffled.

We’ve all experienced phantom vibrations from our phones, where we can practically feel the phone vibrating and we often jump up to answer it, only to realize that it's actually plugged in to the wall in a different room!

But who has ever heard of phantom tweet sounds?

Was I losing my mind!? Was I so addicted to technology that my brain was imagining it? Then I heard it again and I looked up.

I saw a magnificent nest in a tree just a few feet away from me. It was filled with the most beautiful family of birds, all chirping and whistling away. It was at that moment, that I realized how terribly skewed my reality had become. Instead of hearing a chirp and thinking of the obvious, my mind was in a far-off place. I had become disconnected from the present moment and part of my mind was living in an alter digital reality.

In the medical profession, there is a diagnostic concept, framed by Dr. Theodore Woodward, known as “The Zebra”. In other words, if you hear hoof-beats, think horse, not zebra. Thus, when a patient presents with obvious symptoms, consider the obvious diagnosis, rather than the exotic. Yet, in today’s world of technology-overload, the distracting zebra has now replaced the ordinary horse. It is both funny and quite sad that, when I hear chirping today, I think Twitter and not birds.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for technology! I even yearn to one day call myself by the esteemed title of Geek. However, this particular incident was a wake up call. It reminded me of just how aware I must be to separate between my digital world and my actual reality which is filled with countless amazing moments with my wife and children.

How often are couples, coworkers or parents guilty of being drawn into their devices at the expense of enjoying and interacting with one another? Psychological research has demonstrated that even when a phone is nearby, a portion of our minds are distracted by their presence. Consequently, our cognitive abilities become compromised. The research shows that the closer the phone is to us, the greater the cognitive impairment. The only solution is to give oneself the gift of powering down from time to time and recalibrating.

By disconnecting our devices, even just for dinnertime, or while on a date, it frees up more cognitive ability to allow us to enjoy each moment and really make our life experiences into more meaningful ones.

Hopefully, the next time you hear the sound of a birds chirping, think life, nature and real birds – not @Twitter.

For a Free Guide on how to Overcome Digital Distraction Click here4 tips

 

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