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Connecting is fun: Leading with ‘how you doin’?’, empathetic looks, and silence

How we can connect at work, at the coffee shop, and even at home

Teen boys connecting
Teen boys connecting

So I’m a professional connecter

I love connecting with others. I make eye contact, I talk to people I don’t know, I’m interested in what people have to say, and I love people in general (most of them, anyway).

In my field, which has primarily been providing mental health therapy and supervising others, this quality has proven helpful to me. Of course, every characteristic has its drawbacks, but being ridiculously strengths based, I’m going to go with the positives, because that is what I do.

  • I have found that people love to be asked how they are doing, especially when they have a stressed out or an excited look on their face. We all know those looks, right? My response to a stressed looking face is usually ‘what’s going on?’.
    • How this is helpful: People who feel cared about usually respond honestly, and let me in as far as knowing what is going on with them right then. Productively, I have found that people who know they are able to take a day off, or part of a day off when needed, tend to be more productive when they are working. They want to work, knowing that if they need time off they can take it.
  • I tend to give empathetic looks. At the coffee shop, I make eye contact with fellow patrons as we are frustrated with a newer staff taking longer to fill an order. I try to remember, when I’m feeling impatient, (which is really common for me. I love to throw in that one more thing that might make me time stressed on my way somewhere else), that everyone has their own leaning curve.
    • How this is helpful: When I have a newer staff, I try to acknowledge that they are learning, and that even though I have told them multiple times, I understand that they need to hear things more than ones. As a wise professor once told me, ‘we all hear what we need to hear when we are ready to hear it’. I work to establish trusting relationships between newer staff and their more seasoned cohorts. Their peers are much more likely to be able to answer a specific question quickly. In addition, the seasoned staff tend to feel respected by me, which is important for us all. I emphasize, with my words and with my facial expression, that I am the leader who they report to, but that using their resources will help them in their role and in having success.
  • I sometimes have to wait. For some people, particularly introverts, they can’t share what’s going on without quite a bit of time to formulate words. I like to say that “I speak non-verbal’. I look away, intentionally write something down (or doodle), or in therapy I just wait.
    • How this is helpful: In mental health therapy, we call it talk therapy for a reason. People have to be able to talk to express themselves, and I have to go at their pace. In leadership, the same is true. I need to hear them, and my need for words exceeds most other people’s. It is important, in working to have success in each of our roles, that we all get our chance to speak and to be heard. This pace is different for all of us.

Establishing rapport, or connecting, is so important in every role. I love to lead, I love to connect, and I tend to be overly optimistic. I lead from a sense of belonging and connectedness, which has worked for me in my field.

As this new year gets underway, my hope is we all work a little on connecting with others, whether that is in our personal life, at work, or by reading/utilizing social media.

Also, it’s Friday. It’s my favorite day of the week, full of anticipation for the weekend. Hope you can connect with someone today!

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