How to build Connection in a disconnected world
A strong network of healthy connections with others has been a strong indicator of a long and well-lived life.
However, for increasing amounts of people, social connectivity is not their current reality in life.
What then can we do to improve our own connectively and perhaps model and facilitate the process in others?
What is Connection?
Intimacy which in turn involves:
Authenticity - being willing to be real, open &
Vulnerable (see the work of Brene Brown).This requires-
Trust -which in turn requires that we have established-
Safety - the person is safe and the environment or framework has been set up for respectful and kind communication.
Playfulness - adventures, and humour help build a connection.
Stillness ability and pleasure in just being together, enjoying each others company.
Connection is made easier when we approach other people with the primary purpose of learning more about the other and making THEM feel better about themselves. Coaching interactions with the following approach:
For me, this is largely encapsulated by the word “Namaste” commonly used in the yoga I attend “The light within me, honours the light within you”
Many stand back in life and bemoan the fact that they feel isolated with few connections. However like most things in life, for things to change, we must change, then it may be surprising how our universe changes in response!
To build a true connection with others we need :
1. Stop and listen.
Put aside our point for the moment and just listen.
2. Force yourself to hear.
Rephrasing what a person has just said to them: Reflective listening
3. Be open and honest
Some people have never been very open to others in their life. But to be in any meaningful friendship or other relationship is to take a step toward opening up your life and opening up yourself. Being open means talking about things you may have never talked about with another human being before in your life. It means being vulnerable and honest.
Putting on a mask of coping or even worst perfection will only put blocks in the way to true connection. Pretending everything is all right when it isn’t will leave the other person feeling confused, helpless and shutout.
It means opening yourself up to possible hurt and disappointment.
But it also means opening yourself up to the full potential of all a relationship can be.
The recent are you“Are you OK” day breakfast that I attended highlighted that it's important to encourage others to be more open to expressing their vulnerabilities.
To ask and then be prepared to deal with the answer of they trust you enough to share that they are not OK.
Sometimes all others need is to be heard and their feelings validated - not for you to go straight into solution mode.
Remember that there are professionals who are trained to deal with people who are truly struggling with life -possibly to the point of considering hurting themselves.
4. Pay attention to nonverbal signals.
Nonverbal communication is your body language, the tone of your voice, its inflection, eye contact, and how far away you are when you talk to someone else.
5. Stay focused in the here and now.
To be respectful of one another and the relationship, try to keep the discussion (or argument) focused on the topic at hand.
Arguments that do veer off the current issue- bringing up frustrations and huts from the past, tend to escalate and grow larger and larger.
6. Try to minimise emotion when talking about important, big decisions.
7. Be ready to cede an argument.
How many times do we continue to argue or have a heated discussion because we simply want to be “right.”
8. Humour and playfulness usually help.
Humour helps lighten everyday frustrations and helps puts things into perspective more gently than other methods. Playfulness reminds us that even as adults, we all have a side to us that enjoys fun and taking a break from the seriousness of work and other demands made on us.
9. Communicating is more than just talking.
To communicate better and more effectively in your relationship, you don’t only have to talk. You can communicate in other ways — Keeping in touch throughout the day or week through email or other electronic means also reminds the person you’re thinking about them and how important they are in your life.
John Gottman Ph.D. a renowned researcher in the field of relationships who runs what is called a “Love Lab’, in his book The Relationship Cure talks of:
Soft versus Hard startups when wanting to raise issues.
Begin with something positive
Express appreciation and gratitude.
Start with I instead of you
Don’t stockpile complaints
Criticism versus complaint
State your needs without attacking or blaming the other person
Describe your side as your perception- not the absolute truth.
Focus on specific behaviour, not global judgments
Gottman claims to be able to predict within 94% accuracy who will separate after listening to people interact for no more than 30 minutes.
Just as in the Bible there is mention of the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse - Gottman says that after observing countless couples he has worked out what the 4 Horsemen are in a relationship:
The Four Horsemen
1. Criticism. Some forms of criticism are constructive, but in this case, criticism refers to making negative judgments or proclamations about your partner in extreme, absolute terms. A sign that you may be engaging in this more harmful form of criticism is if you catch yourself using terms like “never” and always”—for example, “You never think about anyone but yourself!” or, “You are always so stubborn!”
Constructive alternative: making “I” statements, like “I feel lonely when you come home late for dinner”—and mentions specific negative behaviours rather than making global attacks on his or her entire personality (“I feel neglected when you make plans without me” rather than “You are so inconsiderate!”). (Active Listening)
2. Contempt. Contempt is a more destructive form of criticism that involves treating your partner with disrespect, disgust, condescension, or ridicule. It may involve mean-spirited sarcasm, mockery, eye-rolling, sneering, or name-calling. Contempt can grow over time when a person focuses on the qualities they dislike in their partner and builds up these qualities in their mind.
Constructive alternative: Instead of keeping score of all of your partner’s flaws, consider their positive qualities and the things you appreciate most about them. In fact, it may help to write a list of these qualities and return to it when you need a reminder.
3. Defensiveness. Defensiveness tends to arise when people feel criticised or attacked; it involves making excuses to avoid taking responsibility or even deflecting blame onto your partner.
Constructive alternative: Take the time to hear your partner out and take responsibility when appropriate. A simple, genuine apology can go a long way.
4. Stonewalling. Stonewalling involves putting up a (metaphorical) wall between you and your partner by withdrawing, shutting down, and physically and emotionally distancing yourself from your partner. An example of stonewalling is to give your partner the “silent treatment” or to abruptly leave without telling your partner where you’re going. Stonewalling can sometimes result when the first three “horsemen” accumulate and become overwhelming. Stonewalling is especially destructive to relationships because it can make one’s partner feel abandoned and rejected.
Constructive alternative: If you need the time out to take a few deep breaths and collect your thoughts, let your partner know, and then return to the conversation when you’re ready. This way, your partner will understand that you are taking care of yourself, not trying to reject him.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
The ability to truly connect with others requires a number of skills and qualities including Self Awareness, Self Confidence, Emotional Regulation, Empathy, Kindness and Communication Skills, particularly the skill of Listening.
However, if we are wanting to lead happy, healthy lives, in safe and flourishing communities and the world, then it behooves all of us to develop our connectivity skills.
This week - what small steps can you take to positively impact the connectivity in your world.
John Gottman Ph.D. The Relationship Cure