Dr. Murthy on
the importance of relationships
I just listened to the 26th Jan (2021) episode of The Ezra Klein Show, where Dr. Vivek Murthy, 19th and 21st Surgeon General of the U.S.A, chats about the pandemic with the host. Towards the ending of the episode, they discuss about loneliness and the importance of relationships, and especially about how this pandemic has sparked a re-evaluation in our lives. I really liked these final reflections. Here is a transcript of what they said:
[…] I think we are all still processing how this pandemic has affected us. But I do think that for many people, Covid-19 has pushed them to re-evaluate, frankly, the importance of relationships in their lives. And they often say that you don’t realize how valuable or important something or someone is until it or they are taken away from you. And for many of us, Covid-19 has taken away our ability to be with friends in the way that we’re used to, to hug our families, and to be present for special moments. And so, I think there’s a re-evaluation in many people’s lives that’s happening. And it’s not just a re-evaluation of, are relationships really important to me? But there’s a prioritization I think that is being re-examined. To quite simply put, are we putting our work above our relationships in our life? And if we are, should we start flipping that paradigm? And should we start putting people first? And what does that look like in terms of the decisions we make about where we work, about how often we seek to work from home, about how we show up in the lives of our kids and our spouse and our extended family and friends, at times of need in particular? And so, this re-evaluation is happening.
[…] But in other ways, we’ve also started to recognize that the relationships in our lives are perhaps even more important and more critical for our well-being than we had perhaps thought. And the question is, where do we go from here? And I think that’s the most important question. And when I think about it on a very practical level, I’ll just speak about it from my personal context. I want to come out of this pandemic truly putting people first, truly building a life that’s centered around relationships. And that means making time for the people I love. It means being fully present and having quality conversations with people, as opposed to being distracted by technology, as I often had been, during conversation. It means reaching out to people in my life, whether it’s family and friends or, frankly, neighbors or strangers that I may cross paths with, recognizing that all of us are hurting and suffering in some way.
And if we can be of service to one another, whether that’s simply in saying hello or in listening to how someone is doing, that that itself is a powerful act of service that can help strengthen our connection with one another. If you are somebody who runs a workplace, if you manage a group of people, if you’re a teacher in a school or an administrator in a university, I think there’s a lot we can do now to create spaces where students and work colleagues can actually truly listen to one another and learn how to dialogue respectively. I think we’ve lost that art. And the lack of listening, the lack of true, respectful dialogue is, as I think of it, a health risk. It’s a national security risk. And it’s a risk to our fulfillment and happiness because no family can function without dialogue. And similarly, no community, no country can prosper and thrive without an ability to dialogue respectfully and productively with one another. And it is now all of our responsibility to figure out how we rebuild that kind of dialogue, how we listen to people, who we love, but also those who we don’t know.
And if we can start taking steps to create that dialogue, then we can start rebuilding, I think, the country not just that we had pre-pandemic, but frankly, the country that we needed even before Covid came, which is a country where people do value their relationships, where they invest in each other, where they take the time to see one another for who they really are and where they are truly partners in one another’s healing.