Whether you’re talking about developing resilience, managing stress, or finding greater life satisfaction, building meaningful connections are a must.
You and I and all humans have a basic necessity to connect with others.
These interactions lend meaning and happiness to our lives.
Too many people succumb to the misconception that the ability to connect with others is an unteachable trait that belongs to only a blessed few.
The reality is that the ability to build meaningful connections is under your control.
And it comes down to a matter of emotional intelligence.
Matthew Lieberman at UCLA conducted some research that shows being social and connecting with others is a fundamental human need similar to food, shelter, and water.
Lieberman discovered that the social pain we feel at the loss of a relationship originates in the dorsal posterior insula.
That is the same part of the brain as physical pain.
We are designed for survival, and the primary function of this area of the brain is to alert us to threats.
Think about that and you realise how powerful and important social connection is to us.
We are hard-wired to be social creatures.
Taking a moment to reflect on our daily encounters can help us determine whether the interactions we have with others constitute meaningful connections.
Countless interactions occur with family, friends, teachers, coworkers, service providers, baristas, children, neighbours, and coaches.
The list is literally endless.
Impossible And Exhausting
It would be impossible and exhausting to make a meaningful connection at every encounter, yet enhancing our awareness and ability to improve relationships leads to many benefits.
Connecting with the person who makes my latte? You must be joking! Give me a reason why I should.
Meaningful connections support our well-being in a holistic sense.
People in positive, supportive relationships gain a greater sense of self-worth.
And the better quality relationships at work, then the higher your work satisfaction.
The research conclusively shows we experience overall health benefits such as reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.
It is also shown that caring behaviours, which are evident in meaningful connections, release stress-reducing hormones.
No wonder that a phone call with a friend helps us feel more relaxed, confident, and content.
It is easy to make meaningful connections because they can occur in any interaction and are not limited to your most profound relationships.
Whether it is working on a project with a coworker, supporting your partner through a difficult time in their career, or coordinating snacks with another rugby parent, qualities such as compassion, honesty, respect, support, and positivity enhance every interaction.
Interactions create meaning when something personal happens.
We bond instantly over a shared experience that conveys respect between two people.
Here are some easy ways to enhance the quality of your connections:
You increase opportunity by allowing yourself to be available to interactions initiated by others.
Start your day with the intention to improve your meaningful connections.
Develop the broad intention to enhance relationships throughout your day or define specific groups of people with whom you desire to strengthen your bonds.
When and where do you feel least connected with others?
When you identify the when and the where then you can develop ways to make meaningful connections with those people.
2. Open-Ended Questions
When interacting with others, asking more open-ended questions creates an opportunity to discover common ground, learn about someone, and begin to establish a bond.
Open-ended questions invite information to be shared. It is a way to demonstrate your interest in listening to what they have to say.
“What is important for you to accomplish in this?”
“What is your ideal vacation?”
“What’s the craziest thing you have seen in your job?”
These are examples of conversation starters.
Listen intently to what the other person has to say and respond with interest, banter, or empathy.
Preoccupation with your own day can preempt your ability to stop and listen.
Demonstrating that you care builds respect and invites reciprocity.
When someone feels heard, it creates a sense of value and meaning.
When you give a warm greeting establishes an instant connection and acknowledges another person’s existence.
It signals to another person that you are approachable, which may lead to continued communication or sharing.
Connecting with a variety of people throughout the day and throughout a lifetime helps expose us to new ideas and new activities.
With each person, we experience something different such as a new inspiration, new information, or a unique bond that helps bring out different parts of our whole being.
6. Your Inner Voice
A massive thing that keeps us from connecting with other people is we’re thinking too much while the other person is talking.
Instead of really listening.
We become so focused on how what the other person is saying is going to affect us or on what we’re going to say next that we fail to hear what’s being said.
While we hear the words loud and clear, the meaning is lost.
You must quiet this inner voice if you want to connect deeply with people.
It is not a big deal if you forget what you were going to say or if the conversation changes direction before you have a chance to make your point.
If your goal is to connect with another person, you have to shut off your own internal soundtrack long enough to focus on what they’re telling you.
The good news is that we are hard-wired to connect with each other; we just get in our own way.
Every time you meet someone new try these strategies.
They are simple. They will enhance connections at all levels, including those with our children, our spouses, our coworkers, even the barista who makes our latte.
These enriched interactions with others not only increase your health and happiness but provide a deeper meaning to our lives.