BookZone is a book review column shared by Jo Giese and Ed Warren.
Face to Face: The Art of Human Connection' by Brian Grazer
Recently, the social network Nextdoor Western Malibu had a posting by a woman who said she was lonely and wanted more connections in her community. Neighbors made various suggestions, and I should have added: Read Brian Grazer’s book about making connections.
It’s especially fun to start the new year reviewing a book I enjoyed that’s also written by a Malibu neighbor.
I guess someone could dismiss Grazer’s suggestions because he’s a bigtime Hollywood producer whose films and television shows have been nominated for 43 Academy Awards. They could say, “Of course he knows how to make connections.” But that would be unfair.
Grazer starts out very personal. He tells us that as a kid he felt alone and anxious most of the time. Because he was dyslexic, he was better at talking than reading.
“Figuring out how to connect has probably been the most important skill I’ve learned in life, and I use it every day: in negotiations, on movie sets, with friends and especially in new situations. Human connection is my antidote to living a life that would have been more defined by my learning disability.”
He’s seriously worried about the digital age and the social disconnect that happens because of the distractions of screen time, and how we’re sacrificing real connections for virtual ones.
Grazer points to studies that show people who are more connected to family, friends and community are happier, healthier and live longer than people who are less well connected. He suggests that staying connected should be as important as exercise or a good diet when it comes to taking care of ourselves. I’d say, if you haven’t already made a new year’s resolution, here’s one to keep in mind.
Grazer says we’re becoming so bad at forming connections because we’re losing the ability, the opportunity and the desire to look others in the eye. The more we attend to our devices rather the people in front of us and the more we send messages via text, email and social media rather than meeting and talking face to face, the more comfortable we become looking down at our screens rather than up at one another.
According to Grazer, eye contact is far and away the most critical tool that helps us communicate more clearly. He writes that one look is enough to capture someone’s attention, spark engagement, ignite attraction and create a bridge to real connection. When we look someone in the eyes—really look at them—we are telling them, “I see you.” We are recognizing their humanity. And they, in turn, have the chance to recognize ours.
At a Christmas party this year I had a chance to apply Grazer’s theory, and I failed. The festive party was hosted by the rehabilitation gym where I train after a badly botched Achilles ankle surgery. Since most of the party-goers were in wheelchairs, when I was introduced to Steve, I was standing, he was seated in his wheelchair and we weren’t eye to eye. Because Steve couldn’t shake hands, either, our social connection felt awkward. The next day, thinking about Grazer’s book and the importance of eye to eye contact, I told my trainer what had happened with Steve, and I asked, “What’s the etiquette when you’re introduced to someone in a wheelchair? Should I have knelt down in front of him so we’re eye to eye?”
“Good question,” my trainer said, and then he answered, “Yes.”
Kudos to Brian Grazer and his excellent book, which has already positively impacted this reviewer.
Jo Giese is an award-winning radio journalist, and the best-selling author of “Never Sit If You Can Dance: Lessons from My Mother.”