Making connection meaningful
In these times of varying degrees of isolation we’re told to connect, to stay connected, to be well connected, keep connected, make connections, blah blah blah... We’re also told how important feeling connected is for our mental health, with 1 in 4 adult Australians in 2018, before this epidemic, experiencing loneliness, and loneliness and a sense of isolation being contributing factors to depression and suicide rates*. But here’s the thing - you can run yourself ragged ‘connecting’ with people, you can bamboozle your brain with zooms, and still feel empty and unfulfilled at the end of the day. You can also be surrounded by people, and feel lonely.
So do you want to create meaningful connection? Do you want to feel calm and present whilst connecting? Do you want to have fun connecting?! Here are some things to keep in mind:
Intention and quality of connection
Be aware of the quality of connection you’re engaging in. Are you sincerely seeking connection with another person, or are you solely promoting yourself or your business? Do you care about them as a fellow human being, or are you purely connecting with them to see what you can get out of them, or because you feel like you should? Are you writing one-size-fits-all templated messages to your LinkedIn connections, just so they have you front of mind? Your intention will largely dictate the quality of your connection with a fellow human.
In connecting with people in a business context, forget about goals to connect with certain numbers of people each day and strategies of that sort. Sure, you may have some success with this approach, but people get a whiff of inauthenticity from a mile away and run for the hills when they get a sense that you just want to use them or that they’re just a number to you. They won’t trust you. I wouldn’t. Would you?
If you connect with care and sincerity, with a loving intention, people will trust you, they’ll think of you, they’ll naturally want to be connected with you and associated with you. Not only that, but your efforts will energise you, not drain you. You’ll feel a greater sense of meaning and purpose in engagement. Effects will be much more profound and consequential if quality of connection is your priority and intention.
Connection’s not just about you, after all. It takes two to tango, but it’s important to start with self-awareness…
Understand your drivers. Keeping yourself busy connecting won’t help you if it’s driven by fear, or a need to distract yourself, or a sense that you need to be doing something in order to validate yourself. If there’s a sense of force, a sense of having to ‘make it happen’, or a pressured feeling of ‘should’, you’re being driven by fear. And that’s not good for anyone.
If you find yourself stuck in that “I’ve gotta keep doing doing doing” loop, STOP. Take a chill pill. Take the dog out for a walk or do some yoga or something to get yourself out of it. Just remembering to breathe is a good one. You’ll be doing both yourself and the person you’re wanting to connect with a favour.
If you’re contacting someone for business, give up any attachment to the outcome of the exchange. Sure – in the back of your mind you might be thinking: “I’d love for this person/company to become a client of mine”. That’s OK. Nothing wrong with that. Be aware of the desire, and then let go of attachment to the outcome. That takes away any sense of force, and helps you and the person you’re connecting with to relax. It gives the exchange a sense of ease and actually makes the desired outcome (if there is one) much more likely!
Giving up attachment also allows you to be fully present for that person, and to listen mindfully. If you practise mindful listening, you’ll ‘hear’ far more than what that person is saying with just words. That interaction will matter.
Buddy up with your mind to foster connection
Another way to set yourself up for great connection is, before you reach out, to imagine yourself and the person you’re contacting happy, positive, laughing, and wonderfully satisfied after the exchange. Imagine it being win/win for both people. Sounds simple and it is. Be your own testimonial – try it out and report back.
Here’s the thing: the subconscious mind can’t distinguish between something that’s happened and something that’s been richly imagined, and it doesn’t understand time and space in the same way we do. If you imagine a positive, light vibe in the future, after an interaction, your mind will be wired to create it. When you enjoy interaction wonderful things happen, and when you imagine enjoying interaction, the same chemical reactions and responses happen in your body. Your stress hormone levels drop, you become more creative and more relaxed.
So, there’s connection and Connection. Connect with meaningful intention. Connect with sincerity and care, and make your time, energy and actions count for something positive - irrelevant of the outcome. Believe me, it will be worth it.
*Loneliness has been linked to premature death (Holt-Lunstad et al. 2015), poor physical and mental health (Australian Psychological Society 2018; Relationships Australia 2018), and dissatisfaction with life (Schumaker et al. 1993).