Recently there has been a lot of news about artificial intelligence – robots. It made me think about the essential differences between artificial intelligence, and us as humans, no matter how it develops: we have a heart. By this I mean that we have an emotional reaction and connection, as well as an intellectual one. And this emotional reaction is important to our well-being and personal growth.

I’m not denying the usefulness of computer intelligence – it makes our everyday lives easier. We can go to an ATM and it will recognise our id code, and the amount we want to withdraw, and within moments the transaction is complete. We can dial a phone number and be connected to anyone in the world accurately and quickly. The important distinction is that these are transactions: I take an action which produces a reaction and the result is achieved. It gives us quick results, but there is no emotional exchange at all, so nothing to delight or upset us (unless it doesn’t work, in which case we get angry at the machine!)

However when we are dealing with human beings as opposed to machines, it’s a different story. Think of times when you have been treated like a machine: no hello’s or good mornings; no eye contact; straight to a question or something to be handed over. It makes you feel un-noticed, mistreated somehow. It also affects how you view the other person in a negative way. And that transaction has a negative effect on your mood, and your behaviour with that person in the future. Don’t do this to anyone – it’s not how humans naturally behave.

As human beings we are hard-wired to make an emotional connection with other human beings. This doesn’t have to be a major effort – we are not trying to make everyone fall in love with us! It’s about remembering that friendliness can bring a smile to the grumpiest face, that what we call ‘common courtesy’ – greeting people, saying please and thank you – is so-called because it is acknowledging and recognising the other person’s active part in your exchange.

A moment or two acknowledging the individual you are dealing with can enhance the day for both of you, and will gently build a relationship where you both feel respected and comfortable with each other. It is time well-spent, because it leaves us all feeling better.

So next time you are about to expect someone to do something, connect with that individual first, whether they are a work colleague or shop assistant, and save the transactions for machines – otherwise we all lose out.

About Jo Clarkson

Jo Clarkson is the CEO of Meta and a frequent writer of the blog.


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