I’ve had lots of chats & experiences over the last couple of weeks with various friends and acquaintances. Lucky me, I LOVE a good chat. And I’ve noticed how they have really varied in how satisfying they were. The difference was the level of connection.
Us Humans are a naturally social species and we all have a need for connection. Even for more introvert people connection is still important but introverts may seek it in different ways.
But what does connection mean? What’s it like when you really connect with someone? It can actually mean lots of different things so a few examples:
* It can be that feeling when you feel heard, listened to, understood, cared for. Also to feel safe in sharing something personal.
* To feel you can be entirely yourself, not having to ‘fit in’ or act in a way that doesn’t come naturally to you. To feel that the other person is also feeling safe and able to be honest & open.
* But it doesn’t always have to be deeply personal either – you can connect over a shared passion or by being interested in hearing a different experience or opinion. Or just a sense that you’ve had a really great chat.
* You can connect with someone you don’t know very well in a one-off conversation where you both just ‘got it’ and were on the same page.
* You can connect with humour and shared laughter.
* You can also connect with a shared experience or activity that you are doing together – sometimes words are less necessary, it’s about doing the same thing.
I’m sure I’ve left plenty out but as you can see there are many ways to connect. And yet sometimes we are really crap at it!
We can be crap at connecting with friends or acquaintances. We can be crap at connecting with our partners. We can be crap at connecting with our kids or our parents. We can also be utterly crap at connecting with strangers … and sometimes they may need it the most.
So what gets in the way of connection? LOADS of things but I’ll list some straight off the top of my head:
1. Not paying attention. If we’re not present, not listening and not looking out for those moments to connect, we can miss them. I feel this really applies when the other person is someone who perhaps doesn’t open up often … when there is a glimmer then be ready to hold that space and encourage it. Especially relevant with teenagers who may choose their moment at 1am or grumpy partners who may suddenly want to share!
2. Being too eager to jump in and share their own views. Instead when we really listen, and leave enough space, the other person can choose to fill it and share more.
3. Connection can be killed when we are not open to other points of view or experience or we don’t appear to be fully listening – we can assume we ‘know’ what the other is talking about without actually hearing it.
4. Or if we are too ‘me, me, me’. Just using the opportunity to download without checking in on the other person is not a connecting experience and being ‘talked at’ is exhausting for the listener.
5. Not recognising when something is really important to the other person. They may be sharing their passion and a comment such as ‘I think it’s a load of rubbish’ (or the equivalent but delivered in a less blunt form) can kill the connection and shut down the conversation.
6. Being too distracted by tech / tiredness / work thoughts / any other thoughts.
7. Being so intent on getting things done and being in action-mode that we miss those fleeting moments. It’s hard to connect when we are rushing. I find a good time to connect with my kids is when we are eating dinner together .. breakfast and the morning routine can be busier but we can still grab those moments.
8. Jumping in with advice or judgement rather than listening, empathising, perhaps asking questions to more understand the other person’s experience.
And I’m sure there are plenty of others.
When you have those moments of connection they are true gifts. They really do make the World a more friendly and less lonely place. They make you feel appreciated and heard. And what a lovely gift to give to the people you love, to friends or even to strangers.
Some of my connection highlights in the last week included:
* A day spent with my lovely friend Mandy where we deeply shared everything that’s going on for us.
* The 20 min walk back, through the forest, from our HIIT class with Lina & Ali – it may have only been a 20 min chat but it was a GREAT chat and I loved it.
* A catch up with 4 of the other coaches I trained with 10 years ago – the conversation was full of openness and mutual sharing. Oh and you always get asked pokey questions with your coachy mates so no choice but to share!
* Doing our first ‘Escape Room’ experience as a family – no deep and meaningful chats but a really fun, joint experience where we had to work together as a team.
* A moment of mutual understanding with my lovely 11 year old daughter last night where we both talked about how we had felt shut down in conversations with other people taking over or not listening.
* A group dance experience in my weekly Nia class.
* A random phone call from one of my oldest friends right while I was writing this!
Connection can come in many different ways so if you want more connection generally or with a particular person, perhaps have a think about what might need to change to help it to happen? Perhaps suggest meeting up for a coffee or an activity? Or really sitting down to eat together without rushing? Or not automatically putting the TV on or reaching for a gadget? Or making sure you can be present? Or finding 5 mins of time to just chat before you get into action?
Connection is a magical thing that is well worth investing in. Oh and just to be clear – I definitely don’t always get it ‘right’ myself. I can also be too gobby, too opinionated, too judgemental, too distracted etc … because coaches are Human too! Please like / share and more importantly go and connect with someone. Sue X