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Distancing? It’s not in our DNA

December 11, 2020 - Social distancing goes against cultural norms of communication but also our instincts. Like many species, it’s our nature to come together, connect and be “in community” with others. So what can we do about it and how can Six Senses help?

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Unless you’re into proxemics – the study of how humans use space – you might not have given much thought to social distancing until this year. But as humans, we constantly negotiate the physical distance between ourselves and other people.

When we see someone who looks unusual or potentially suspect, we subconsciously move further away from them. When we see someone who appears friendly or trustworthy, we move closer. Proximity influences outcomes in business too. Closeness breeds trust, open lines of communication and reciprocity.

Research[1] by anthropologist Edward T. Hall found that physical distance was indicative of relationships. Intimate distance (up to 18 inches) is for hugging or whispering, personal distance (typically up to 2.5 feet) is for interacting with good friends or family, social distance (typically 4 to 7 feet) is for acquaintances and public distance (12 to 25 feet) is used mainly for public speaking.

As a super-social species, it is little wonder, therefore, that many of us struggle with distance. We like to bring people into personal distance with us. It feels comfortable and friendly. Social distancing feels like rejection.

Handling the hugless

If you’re craving a cuddle, you’re not alone. But needs must, and in this case the need is maintaining a distance of at least 1 meter from others.

One of the best ways to cope with social distancing is to not to ignore the problem. Give yourself permission to feel upset. Your sadness at an inability to connect is a sign you are human.

We’ll meet again … it can be helpful to remember that you are not actually socially distancing at all, just physically distancing until the virus is under control. Things might not go back to how they were before but this total touch deprivation is temporary. In the meantime, there are other ways to let your loved ones know how much you value them from listening to them to telling them what you love or appreciate most about them.

Don’t think of it as social distancing but distantly socializing

In one of our early Friends of Six Senses chats, author Dani Shapiro talks about staying connected during forced periods of separation. She shared that, “In this enforced slowness, I am trying to make permanent changes. My screen time has gone down. I’ve noticed the trees have budded and the flowers are blooming. For the last three Springs, I haven’t been home as I was traveling so much. This is the first time in years I have been able to watch the slowness of nature and this Earth and what She does. I hope I’m going to continue to embrace the slowness. I hope I don’t just snap right back into my old life.”

Dani shared a great writing prompt with us and you don’t have to be a writer to try it.

The “I Remember…” Exercise

Memory is not linear, it’s very associative like music and the way our minds work is that it jumps from thing to thing. Sit down with a blank piece of paper, think about a friend or loved one who you’d like to feel more connected with, write, “I remember…” and finish the sentence. Then drop down a line and do it again. Keep doing that at least ten times. The process will yield some surprising insights and material. You can do this every day because you will never have the same memory twice. Even if you’re remembering the same moment in time with someone, your experience of it (and them) now will be different.

Reconnection Experiences

When you’re ready or able to travel again, you’ll see we have rolled out a series of reconnection experiences across our resorts. These pick and mix experiences vary according to the destination, local community and ecology, and typically last a half or full day. From group yoga sessions to Fijian lovo feasts and fun Alchemy Bar sessions, the idea is to reconnect with ancestral traditions, relate to each other and become re-enchanted with nature and wildlife.

Find out more about Reconnect With Six Senses

[1] https://www.jstor.org/stable/668580?seq=1

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