It’s Time We Begin A “Fully-Present” Dining Habit.

[Covid-19 Update: Obviously, in-person dining is on pause. Consider setting up a virtual lunch hour Zoom.]

Making time to connect with someone over a meal is a tradition as old as time. It spans history and cultures. It’s part of what makes us human. It is something we need — young and old.

It is connecting. Bonding. Even healing. But it is a fading habit. Only 20 percent of office workers say they get away from their desk for a bite. Yet neglecting this need for real connection with others will not make the need go away.

We know the importance of breaking bread with family members at dinner. That research — about the benefits for kids and spouses — is seismic. But less understood is the import of breaking bread with a friend. Canadian researchers examining US trends suggest “instead of mourning the demise of the family meal, we can look for ways to reinvigorate our relationship with food and thus with our families, friends and wider community through intentionally eating together.”

And that’s precisely my thinking — whether at home with family or dining out with friends. The average American eats one in every five meals in the car, according to The Atlantic.  And the majority of American families report eating a single meal together less than five days a week. Fast food and car eating are anathemas to health and relationships.

In so many ways we are growing detached and isolated. Face-to-face conversations over a meal or a cabernet sauvignon without face-to-screen interruptions are fading from everyday life. And this is only amplified by our growing fixation with our smartphones.

Most of us can name friends and colleagues with whom we have lost touch. They could be friends who live or work just a few minutes away, but we haven’t made time for each other in years. We’ve been told the importance of growing our connections, even if it’s in the context of “networking.”

Just as with dogeared book pages or cursive ink on paper, we process information better the good ol’ fashioned way: Eye-contact, handshakes, and laughter are better for us, according to one of my “alumni” TED Talk clients, Harvard researcher, Dr. Robert Waldinger.  

“Thinker Thursdays is one small step in the direction of renewing ‘analog’ mealtime face-to-face connection.”

It’s time to make another pledge: One day each week (or month), invite someone to lunch. Make it unhurried. Don’t set a time limit.

This isn’t a job interview. This isn’t prospecting for new business. This is about sharing. It’s about really getting to know someone. It’s about finding common ground and developing a special bond with someone — that’s something that only comes from having meaningful, shared experiences.  

Devote the time entirely to truly listening and sharing, with no expectations and no pre-defined outcomes.  

This will be worth more to you and your friend than a dozen phone calls or a hundred emails. Turn lunchtime into a treasured memory!

Extra-credit? Pick a restaurant and get to know the owner and maître d’. I lunch at Carrie Nation on Beacon Hill where Frank Lunardi — Boston’s “last” maître d’ with standards “from a bygone time” — according to the Boston Globe (here). Just seeing Frank makes the schlep into the city worth it. And over the years, he’s introduced me to his friends. #InterweavingFriendships  #OwnUnhurriedMeals

Connecting over a meal with a “Thinker” offers a world of potential sparkle, ideas, and laughter. We’re all sojourners with insights to share along the way.

Join me on this journey, would you? Please touch base below and let’s share our discoveries.