There are a number of things that are unique about Ireland – the national anthem is still played to end nights in regional nightclubs across the country, “I’ll ring liveline” is a valid threat and we are all amateur meteorologists. But arguably, the Irish ability to chat is just about as unique as it gets, we are the world leading conversationalists. Conversation is one of the most humanising things we do. Two or more people share thoughts and feelings, ideas are expressed, questions are asked and answered, or news and information is exchanged. Mastering Irish small talk is a skill. One shouldn’t appear over enthusiastic, never reveal too much and always refrain from telling the actual truth. There are rules. Chat was once the currency of choice in Ireland, some cynics may suggest it’s our tendency to gossip, but face to face conversation is the foundation that our communities are built on. And community is an essential element of our wellbeing. A sense of belonging to a greater community improves motivation, health and happiness (Pretty et al., 2007).
But conversation is a skill we are losing, and with it the fabric of our community may be disappearing. As a group the millennial generation have become the dominant generation not only in our workforce, but now also in our communities. We love talking about what millennials know, we commend their brilliance with technology, social media and the “iWorld” . Yes, millennials might arguably be one of the most intelligent generations to come around. However, that’s not to say they still don’t have a lot to learn, especially when it comes to face-to-face communication. Because for them Emojis are the simpler way to communicate quick emotion, but at what cost? It’s always easier to send a message because of the ability to edit a message. Even for the most mundane of conversations, younger generations have always had the time to think something over. This not only removes a sense of vulnerability but the raw emotion that could come with it. Young people aren’t getting the chance to practice more challenging face-to-face conversations: inviting someone out, declining an invitation, apologising for an offence…….. coping with awkward silences – just send a WhatsApp. So, even though we are more “connected” than ever, we are counter-intuitively becoming more isolated. These digital connections are artificial and robbing us of true community experiences, our conversation.
Working together in a group starts with conversation. It can inspire intrinsic motivation, turning effort into enjoyment (Carr and Walton, 2014). So now that you are inspired to become a contributing “community member”, what about joining a running club? Running clubs are not only for overly-healthy, fanatical, type-A, pioneers with bad knees who never take a day’s off. These are preconceived notions, not only does running in a group initiate great improvements in performance, like any team sport it creates camaraderie and lasting memories. On wet, cold mornings after drinking too much wine the night before, the commitment to running with a group will force the donning of the lycra. For some it may get the competitive juices flowing again. Many will unearth previously hidden talent and realise their potential. They’ll have the opportunity to compete against and run with runners of similar ability or better. Others will enjoy easy group jogs and just having the “chats”.
Carr, P. B. and Walton, G. M. (2014) ‘Cues of working together fuel intrinsic motivation’, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 53, pp. 169-184.
Pretty, G., Bishop, B., Fisher, A. and Sonn, C. (2007) ‘Psychology sense of community and its relevance to well-being and everyday life in Australia’, The Australian Community Psychologist, 19.