We could be excused for looking at most things simply as faceless transactions. If we need our car fixed we pay someone to fix it. When we need a morning coffee we buy one. Our goal is to have the most frictionless experience as possible – we’re in and out with no delay.
The reality is though these aren’t transactions, but human interactions and connections. Despite the fact that we as a society actively try to reduce the time and frequency of these human connections (after all time = money), at the end of the day what makes the entire system work are people and these interactions with others are at the very center of it.
You have no idea how important these connections are until you’re running late for a meeting and you’re desperate for a coffee or you need help from colleagues to pull an all-nighter on a presentation. The faceless transaction all of sudden becomes someone of great importance. Funny how that works.
There was just such an occasion when my own car broke down on the side of the highway during a snowstorm. Just as luck would have it, there was a dealership within walking distance and so I made my way over and asked to have it fixed politely, but barely exchanging pleasantries in the process.
The big difference was I was outside Canada in a country that places a much higher emphasis on these human interactions than we do here and so my experience was magnified. My approach was met with a flat answer: “we don’t even have time to look at it today”. After my initial disappointment I realized my mistake in approach and tried again – this time treating the exchange less like a transaction and more like a discussion between two people. The result was also completely different – I was on my way within an hour.
Our approach should be no different here and despite our best efforts to replace human interactions by digitizing our entire world, we’re still just as reliant on one another as we’ve ever been. Sometimes the difference between getting something done or not will depend on whether you see it as a transaction or a human connection.