Monday, May 20, 2019

3 steps to a meaningful connection

Last weekend I was matched with a stranger through an event coordinated event called Europe Talks, organised by The Financial Times and media outlets all around Europe.

What is Europe Talks?

The objective of the event is to connect individuals who have either a different political conviction or a different demographic in the hope of fostering greater mutual understanding.

1. Get an internet connection and a willing stranger

After I'd been paired up with my partner, Jørn, a retired Professor from Denmark, we exchanged some emails. We later set up a time to do a video call, on the same date all around Europe.

On the day of our conversation, I was visiting friends in the UK, while Jørn was at home in Denmark. We talked for about an hour over a video call where we exchanged ideas, opinions, shared stories, and even views from our daily lives.

Jørn lives with his wife, whom he met at the age of 17, and his dog, who he adopted from his divorced son. I got to meet them both as Jørn showed me around on his iPad! I got a lasting impression of how a day in the life of my conversation partner is like.

2. Willingness and Openness - both to share and listen

I used to think that the fact of being open-minded was a direct result of traveling or in some other way exploring and being exposed to a different way of life. It really struck me how open Jørn was to sharing about himself and wanting to learn about me. He had not traveled much, at least not physically, in fact, he pointed out that he wished he had traveled more.

On the other hand, I imagine Jørn has traveled a lot through literature. He showed me countless fully stacked bookshelves, told me about how he ingests content online, and not to mention the decades he spent as a researcher and professor before retiring.

Of course, we could not give up the chance to discuss our concerns about the current political climate and the increasing hostility against foreigners which seems to be present in both European countries and the US, where I live.

3. A few common interests

While we are nearly half a century apart in age, we both shared a lot of common interests. We both really enjoy reading, and we both run a blog! In fact, I was very impressed by some of the beautiful shots Jørn has taken that you can find here.

We also both started our careers in tech. While I've worked on software that enables touchless gestures for mobile devices, Jørn punched cards and paper tape. The changes the industry has gone through can be studied at great lengths, but one particular difference caught my attention.

In the days Jørn worked in the industry, the software was built with whatever functionality and design the technology allowed. Consequently, the purchasing organisations and their employees would then have to adapt to whatever interface was provided. Today, on the other hand, there are dedicated professions that research the needs of users to best suit the technology to our needs, making it accessible to everyone.

It doesn't take much to connect

As it turns out, this one, brief, genuine conversation - was all that was required to connect us.

It really struck me how much I enjoyed this lengthy conversation with a complete stranger. Not only that, but we agreed to get back in touch, and Jørn even invited me to come to visit him in Denmark while I was in Europe!

...I think I might just take him up on his offer :)

Topics: wellnesslifestyleretirement hobbiesloneliness

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