Our relationships are not our strong points. In today’s society relations are lacking in all the following departments: socially, economically, politically and religiously; at home, work, politics and in faith. Relationship analyst, consultant and speaker Robert E. Hall has successfully examined the strategic implications, quantified the compounding cost and provided the solution to the social, emotional and especially economic relationship decline that now gravely increases our societal risk of permanent failure. Splash Magazines sat down with author Robert E. Hall to gain insight on how we can pull together as individuals and collectively pull out of this struggle.
The following has been edited for print and continuity purposes.
Sargent: What are the benefits of having healthy relationships/friendships?
REH: There is a certain relational irony today. We speak often in the poetry of relationship benefit – family, friends, community, and connection – while we live mostly in the prose of divorce, single-parent families, transient community, alienated employees, un-loyal customers, partisan political discourse verging on dysfunction and religious groups increasingly defined by their divisiveness. As Ann Lamott has said, “you can safely assume you have created God in your own image when it turns out he hates all the same people you do.” I believe we were built for relationship but increasingly our relationships are not built to last and strong relationships translate into real economic, physiological and emotional value.
Sargent: What do you think is the cause of such a decline over the past years with marriages, friendships, organizational groups?
REH: In the book I identify four key causes, so let me focus on three: Extreme Consumerism, Extreme Commercialism, and to ‘Worship at the Altar of Technology’. [Like our] ability to obtain data without having to interact with people tempts us to exercise this new-found control to avoid human connection. The good news is that technology is a great enabler of communication and provides a way to stay connected unlike anything we have ever seen. Worse, is the way we use information and technology to attack and wound others. We have had such high hopes for a more informed world. Yet beyond a certain point research has shown that more information does not increase our ability to make better discernments but it does make us more confident and often arrogant. And it tears the very fabric of our society apart – our relationships.
Sargent: Is this something that we, as a whole, can overcome?
REH: Too often our knee-jerk reaction is to say “if only” the President, the Congress, CEOs or some other individual or group would do something. If only we had better policies, more powerful social initiatives or more effective tax policy, our relationships and communities might heal. In reality our efforts are overpowered by the collateral damage of our relational disintegration. I am not optimistic that we will restore relationships through some kind of top-down solution that often undermines relationship and fosters passive resistance or dependent compliance. It must start local, bottom-up and it starts with each of us in our sphere of influence – the family, friends, community, colleagues and even adversaries that we deal with day in and day out. It requires us to be much more intentional about valuing relationships and making them our highest priority.
Sargent: What led you to write such an interesting book, like this one?
REH: This book applies my insights garnered from over 20 years as Co-founder and CEO of my company which analyzed the relationships of businesses and non-profit organizations around the world, and the last decade of mentoring homeless families—to our broader society.
I wrote this book because I have come to see that our relationships are the single most valuable and value-creating resource we have and the seismic shift away from relationships is the untold story of the decade. Yet no one has stepped all the way back and connected the dots to assess the magnitude, calculate the cost, identify the cause and provide some direction for the cure. All of our hoped for answers – the right leader, better social programs, breakthrough technology – are no match for the scale of relational disability we face. We cannot have the lives we want or the society we need on the back of broken relationships. I wrote this book to sound a clarion call for what really ails us and to provide an alternative narrative for what it will take to make us healthy, wealthy and wise.
Sargent: Do you feel that your book may help people pull out of this state of 'emotional/mental depression and rejection'?
REH: I believe the book will affirm that bad feeling many of us carry in our gut – that the current decline of our relationships is not sustainable. Relationships are difficult, time-consuming, messy and sometimes unmanageable. All of us have relationships in our lives that we have been unable to reconcile or fix. The last thing I want to do is beat people up over relationships. Often some of our most challenging relationships are of incredible value – remember that really difficult teacher, boss or friend – who has taught you so much. Relationships often our greatest source of pain and our only meaningful source of healing, growth and redemption. If we could get by any other way, we might just choose to do without them – but it turns out we can’t.
The good news is there are a number of hopeful signs, discussed in the book, that indicate that our society is beginning to shift priorities for greater relational emphasis – like the divorce rate trending down slightly, families dedicating more hours to personal interaction, organizations with more family-friendly policies, and churches increased use of in-home small group interaction.
Sargent: Any upcoming projects you are working on?
REH: I will be starting a new book soon dealing with how the decline of relationship has hurt organized religion.
Sargent: What's the best way to keep up with you?
REH: The best way to keep up with me is on my website, www.RobertEHall.com
Underneath all of the chaos in our families, alienation in business, dysfunction in government and the food fight in faith and secular belief is a simple reality: we are exiting relationships at an unprecedented and unsustainable rate. Robert, author of the new book, This Land Of Strangers: The Relationship Crisis That Imperils Home, Work, Politics and Faith, now for the first time, makes sense of our relationships. So pick up your copy today and find solutions and make sense of this ever crazy world we live in.