While we have the most advanced methods to connect with others, we are increasingly feeling a lack of connection to what matters most. Our sphere of influence has radically expanded as we can easily reach people and connect to them through keywords, similar likes and the people with whom we are “connected”. Technological advances allow us to interface with people we may never meet in person – they become our online friends and one of a growing number in our sphere of connections. But even as our outreach has become vast, seemingly unlimited, our deeply human need for close and meaningful connection has become even more pronounced.
We are moving farther and farther away from the meaningful connections that resonate at a deeper level and fulfill our human needs. From fleeting connections that are part of our daily activity at work and in our lives to increasing social media pressures, we are faced with the challenge to find our way in a sea of impersonal interactions that seem more connected than they actually are.
In real life, as we now say, people work with those we know, like and trust. The truth is that people simply aren’t reliant on talking to each other anymore. We aren’t connecting on a personal level in the same way we once did. We apply meaning to what we hear that fits with our own thinking as quickly as possible so we can move on to the next thought or thing instead of simply listening and being in the moment—that moment. Society has devalued the practice of listening and elevated the art of reacting. We distill conversations to what we need them to be—to fit our belief system, our way of thinking or our narrative in the moment.
When we make the decision to be the leader of our own life, we create the types of connections that give meaning, add value and increase the wholeness of our being. The onus has shifted to us, as individuals, to rethink and to recreate more real, durable and sustainable connections.
Many people miss what this is all about. It is not connecting just to connect—we do that daily with email, social media, and daily interactions. It isn’t about what someone can do for you or even what you can do for them. It is about connecting on a deeper, more fundamental level to create energy and that energy has value and resonates with positivity, unites the people in our lives, intensifies happiness, propels us forward and brings ultimate success. When we connect on core values, belief systems and shared visions of the future, we are able to achieve the more human connections that both ground and elevate us. This allows us to move forward and remain connected, even when we disagree.
These connections give us a sense of belonging, especially in a world of constant change. When we are connected, even in a moment where it is not a lasting connection, it is easier to navigate the chaos of the world around us. But real connectivity takes practice, focus, and commitment. It is an intentional art that we must nurture and develop.
Here are 5 things you can work on to create more human, meaningful connections.
- Start a Conversation With a Deeper Question: I have always believed that the art of the question is at the heart of connection. When we approach people with a meaningful question, we create openness for real dialog. Be aware—too often, we ask a question that is not genuine, thereby producing one-word responses. “How are you?” “Fine, and you?” Try asking a question that is more personal and specific to the person.
- Never Start a Conversation With Why?: Yes, there is great and important work on the word “why”, but from a connectivity perspective, it is a challenging word. “Why” puts people on the spot and immediately puts them on the defensive. Instead of why, ask how or what questions. “How can we…”, “What were you…”
- Add 15 Seconds of Words to the Conversation: Our current speed of life, exacerbated by social media, has reduced our conversations and responses to single words: Fine. Good. Ok. In fact, we are not even using words in some cases, as we allow emojis (modern-day hieroglyphics) to communicate for us. Are our one-word responses sufficiently expressing what we really mean or are our short answers leaving too much to interpretation letting others fill in the gaps we are creating? We incorrectly think that younger generations prefer the one-word, shorter answers, but they need context as much as we do.
- Make People Real: The pressures, including time, that we navigate daily can create impatient responses and a rush to judgment of others. Think about when you are on the phone with a customer service rep, at a store or an airport counter. We get frustrated when things don’t go the way we want or plan. Instead of giving into frustration, we need to step back before we engage. Breathe. And, then, don’t think of the person on the other end as a nameless, faceless person standing in the way of what you need or want, instead, imagine you are talking to your closest friend. When you do this, your voice and tone change and the energy of the interaction changes, as does the outcome. When we make other people real, we are better able to see them in a different light and to humanize connections with them in that moment.
- Embrace Positivity: One of the greatest connectors in our lives is positivity. Think of positivity as the glue that holds the best of your life together. Positivity connects us to how we see the world and it connects us to our dreams of what can be. It also connects us to big ideas of what can be possible and the important people in our lives. It is powerful! Positivity provides a more fertile environment for how we approach and prepare to tackle the chaos and constant change we all live through every day.
When we step into becoming the leader of our own life, we create an energy that connects us to others and to the ideas that move us forward.
To learn more about how to drive performance in your organization with positivity, check out my Guide to Practicing Purposeful Positivity.