Connection. Its why we’re here. – Brene Brown
Its also what makes being here worthwhile. In my experience, having great connection to others is the single most effective way to eliminate stress and increase your overall well-being.
At the beginning of this year connection was something that I thought I had a good handle on. In fact I thought was pretty good at it. I had relationships with great friends and colleagues, and an amazing family. I had good social skills and got along well with most people. But everything I was coming across in my “figuring out what was missing in my life” adventures was telling me connection is key. I started thinking, maybe just maybe, there’s more to it. Maybe I still have something to learn…maybe I haven’t fully experienced what connection has to offer.
And it was just at this time that I came across Scott Dinsmore’s course called How to Connect with Anyone. It was a 12 week online course on connection, including, online forums and resources, weekly modules incorporating interviews with experts, and the opportunity to participate in a my own personal mastermind group. It sounded interesting, and was unlike any formal education I had ever had, so I thought why not try it out – I signed up! And all I can say is that the course is amazing, and it changed the way that I approach everything to do with connection, from interacting with strangers to my closest relationships.
In fact, improving the way I connect with people is the single most important change I’ve made this year (and I’ve made a lot of changes). It has reduced my stress levels; helped me to stop catastrophizing; increased my confidence, happiness, and my overall well being; opened up new opportunities; and most importantly, has been key to finding that “something is missing” in my life.
So I thought, why not share some of the strategies I’ve learned and incorporated into my own life to make my connections count?
I must admit its taken quite a bit of work to get the list down to 10 (and even with only 10 this post still ended up being longer that I intended), but I can say without doubt that the practices below are key, and are the ones that have made the greatest impact on my own connections, and on my life itself.
So here they are…drum roll please…
10 strategies to make connections that count
1. Be Vulnerable
Allow yourself to be seen. Truly seen. Vulnerably seen. – Brene Brown
Embrace all of yourself, including your imperfections, and share it with the world. No one likes the perfect kid. Firstly, its hard to like the perfect kid because we all know that no one is perfect, so we wonder what he is hiding. Secondly, its hard to be friends with someone that isn’t friends with themselves, all of themselves. And finally its impossible to have a meaningful relationship if all you are willing to share are the aspects of yourself and your life that are Facebook profile worthy. Your flaws are what makes you, you. If others don’t know your flaws, they don’t know you. So let your flaws shine. Yes, shine, I say. Difficult? Yes. Worth it? Heck yes.
2. Receive and Give Help
It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it. -Lena Horne
Don’t be a dick head. Accept help when its offered. And ask for help when you need it - in a transparent way. None of this schmoozy or ulterior motive stuff. If you need something, be direct and ask for it. People really do want to help you. It makes them feel good and makes your life easier. So let them. For more on asking for help in all the right ways and all the right places, check here.
In about the same degree as you are helpful, you will be happy. - Karl Reiland
Same applies in reverse. If you can help someone, offer to. Add value at every opportunity. Respond to requests for help whenever you are able. And do it without expecting anything in return. It will make someone else’s life easier and make you feel amazing.
3. Be Present
When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen. - Ernest Hemingway
Don’t check your phone, or the time every two minutes when you are talking with someone. In fact, don’t do or even think of anything else except what you are talking about or doing with that person right now. As much as we think we can multitask and say – plan dinner, or the next thing on our to-do list while we are chatting with someone about how their weekend went – we can’t. Trying to do or think about something else while you are interacting with someone, will inevitably cause you to forget something they said, miss something, or fail to contribute something important to the conversation.
Be present. It shows you care enough to truly take the time.
4. Set the Tone (i.e. be positive)
The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives - Anthony Robbins
Be positive. If you are positive, you will attract positive people. Compliment people. Point out their strengths. Be the optimist in the group. Don't play the victim and don't play into others victimization of themselves. Be creative. Be a problem solver. Tell people you believe in them, and show that you believe in yourself.
If nothing else, smile a lot, laugh as much as possible, and generally make it your mission to make whoever you encounter a little happier by the time your interaction is through.
5. Don’t Compare
Comparison is the death of joy. – Mark Twain
I know people say don’t compare yourself to others all the time, and I also know that it is such hard advice to follow. We’ve all been guilty of comparison. And its no wonder when our education system fosters comparison and competition, rather than collaboration. But for all the good it does you (which is none), please try to let it go.
Comparing yourself to others not only brings you down (because, the conclusion is always, I am not _________ enough.), it also alienates the people you are comparing yourself to. I’ve compared myself to others enough in my past (even in some of my closest relationships), to know the toll it takes and the limits it places on the growth of those relationships. So next time you find yourself comparing, try making a list of your own strengths, and let it go of the me versus them. Maybe even take this new found awareness of your own strengths, call deep on your courage, and see if there is a way you might actually help or collaborate with this super amazing person you were comparing yourself to. You might be surprised to find what you thought was a negative, can turn into opportunity.
It takes a great deal of character strength to apologize quickly out of one's heart rather than out of pity. A person must possess himself and have a deep sense of security in fundamental principles and values in order to genuinely apologize. - Stephan Covey
As Canadians we say sorry for everything. Whenever I travel, it is this habit that gets commented on most. We bump into someone, we say sorry. Someone else bumps into us, we say sorry. We only have one flavor of tea to offer someone when they visit us, we say sorry. We say sorry at the slightest possibility of a problem, confrontation or inconvenience, even when none of it is our fault. We say sorry so much that it has actually been the subject of academic study.
This is not the kind of apologizing I am talking about. What I am referring to is saying sorry for the things that are difficult to say sorry for. The times when you’ve really hurt someone, failed to follow through on a promise, or broken someone’s trust. We are human, we do mess up. So apologize, especially when it’s hard. And when you apologize, it goes without saying you, must mean it, and show it with your actions going forward.
Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong. – Mahatma Ghandi
An even more difficult thing to do is to forgive. To let go of those times where someone else has hurt you, or broken a promise or your trust, can seem like an impossible thing to do. But it can also be liberating, not only for them, but for you. Holding a grudge is exhausting and it leaves less space available to interact with others in a meaningful way. Practicing forgiveness therefore not only has the potential to save a relationship but can also have a positive impact on other relationships going forward.
So talk it thought with a friend, have a difficult conversation with the person you are holding a grudge against, write down all of your negative thoughts and then burn the paper - do whatever works for you, but try to find a way to let it go.
8. Reach out
You cant stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes. – A. A. Milne
Take risks. Reach out to that dream connection. Cold call a potential employer. Go up an speak to the presenter that inspired you at a conference you are attending. Step outside your circle at a networking event and introduce yourself to someone new. Talk to a stranger in the elevator or on the bus. Send a follow up email to that person you got a business card from at that last event.
And to make all of this a little easier, I will share with you some advice Scott Dinsmore gave in the course I took earlier this year. And that is to approach each new connection as a potential new friend. No matter who they are, what they have accomplished, or what stage of their career they are in. Approach every person as a potential friend, and ask yourself how you can add value to their life.
Be genuine. And just go for it.
9. Say Thank YOU!
Expressing gratitude is a natural state of being and reminds us that we are all connected. – Valerie Ester
Out of all of these practices, gratitude - truly feeling and honestly expressing gratitude - has been the single most important thing that I have incorporated into my life on a daily basis. I write at least five gratitudes in a journal every night, and practicing gratitude has now become such a habit that I often catch my mind noticing things that I am grateful for throughout the day. I have also started expressing gratitude for the people in my life more often. Now that I can see the importance of connection to my overall well-being, I know that without some pretty amazing people that I have in my life, I would not be nearly as happy; I would not have allowed myself to dream so many dreams, and even worse, I may have dreamed them but would have been too afraid to pursue them.
I’m sure there are people in your life that you feel the same way about. So tell them. Call them, write to them, send them a card, take them for coffee, give them a hug...it doesn’t matter how, but, whatever you do, tell them genuinely that they are appreciated.
And if aren’t quite sold on the importance of all this mushy gratitude stuff, check out this study (conveniently explained in a video) showing the link between expressing gratitude and your own happiness.
10. Be kind
And finally, be kind. Without expectations. And without the need for acknowledgement.
With kindness your connections will grow. This one is pretty self explanatory. So I will not add anything more except to leave you with this quote.
I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again. - William Penn
So in conclusion...
I am so grateful for all the ways in which connection has enriched my life and wish nothing but the same for you. I hope you will incorporate or increase some of these practices in your life and go out there and make the most of your connections, and maybe make some new ones too. And stay tuned in the coming weeks for more detailed discussion of these ideas and for strategies on how to incorporate some of these practices into your own life. And for now, I will leave you with just one more quote...
It’s the most breathtakingly ironic thing about living: the fact that we are all…alone. Singular. And yet what we seek – what saves us – is our connection to others. – Wally Lamb