There is a subtle difference between aloneness and loneliness.
The first is healthy, it reflects a comfort with our own company and an inner calm. It comes from a position of inner strength.
It is one of the attributes we seek in a leader, someone who takes the time to sit with his or her thoughts and ponder them deeply. This cannot be done in an environment of distraction. And one of the characteristics of today’s working environment is that there is insufficient time to be alone.
Loneliness, on the other hand, is less healthy. It comes from a position of inner weakness.
A sense of loneliness is a leading indicator for anxiety and depression and the irony is that a highly distracted, social world that thrives on feedback drives loneliness through its absence.
Organisations are social constructs, people create them and they are populated by people. But even so, it is possible to feel lonely. This can take three primary forms:
– People who like to be alone but can appear aloof or condescending. If there are too many external distractions, they will withdraw and appear to be anti-social and cold. Managed well, left alone to do their work, they are calm and competent.
– Those who are easily irritated, tending to make hasty decisions and may be frustrated by slower co-workers. This drives them to work alone. However, if they are permitted, they can be extraordinarily good diplomats, decisive and spontaneous while coping calmly with irritating problems.
– Those who are simply unhappy with being alone and are pre-occupied with their own situation. They tend to drive others away through their inability to enter into genuine two-way communication with others. This exacerbates the loneliness they seek to escape.
With help they can become superb listeners and through their own experiences have extraordinary empathy.