Social connection is an essential human need. According to research professor and best-selling author, Brené Brown, at the root of our desires for money, power, fame, beauty, or eternal youth is a need to belong, to be accepted, to connect with others, and to be loved.
Connection is having shared experiences, relatable feelings, or similar beliefs or opinions. It is when there is a sense of “oneness” and belonging to something greater than ourselves.
In my work as a family lawyer, I sadly see over and over again how easy it is for couples and families to become hopelessly disconnected. And how couples, in the process of reaching agreements about their children and financial futures, gain a greater understanding and a sense of cooperation.
In the meantime, solid scientific evidence shows that social connection and relationships improve our physical health and mental and emotional well-being.
Conversely, according to one landmark study, lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure. Simply put, neglecting our need to connect puts our physical, mental, and emotional health at risk.
I think this is what makes dealing with global pandemic restrictions and social distancing so difficult. It’s been almost one year that we’ve been in this collective sort of alternate universe compared to the way we as humans live our daily lives. And with so many of us feeling the pain of loneliness and isolation.
But what we can do in the meantime is to learn to connect with others in more creative ways. Here are 3 powerful tips:
1. Speak the language of connection.
When having a conversation, it can help to be intentional when you want to deepen the relationship. You might ask questions, such as “Why is that? If you don’t mind me asking”; “That’s interesting, and then what happened?” or “That makes sense. What else?”
Notice you’re not just firing off questions, which can often come across as abrupt. These questions also engender trust and encourage the other person to share authentically. These types of questions demonstrate you are really interested in what they have to say.
2. Acknowledge the other person’s perspective.
When someone becomes emotional during a conversation, immediately label what he or she is feeling. For example, “Wow that’s really scary.” This immediately calms the other person down because now they feel heard. You might also try summarizing the other person’s views back to them in detail.
3. Manage your emotions.
In order to truly connect during emotionally-charged conversations, we need to be able to gain control over our emotions. It takes regular practice to make it an automatic habit.
Every day, for instance, you might practice controlling your thoughts. Whenever you find yourself having restless thoughts about the past or future, simply stop, breathe, and pay attention to where you are and who you’re with. In other words, practice being mindful. Guided meditations can also be very helpful.
Daily repetition is also key. On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact.
It’s can be easy to lose sight of how hard it is, and yet how good it feels, to really connect with other people. To have the ability to relate and communicate. It’s something we need now more than ever.
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