“Meditate. Breathe consciously. Listen. Pay attention. Treasure every moment. Make the connection.” – Oprah Winfrey
How many connections do you have? Not contacts, connections. There is a profound difference, although it’s one that many today don’t recognize.
Connection, by definition, requires conscious effort. It is intention followed by action. To connect with another means to extend yourself, seeking to bridge a divide or forge a relationship with some meaning, and making yourself vulnerable.
You might be reticent, yet it’s important to overcome this reluctance.
It is, however, also tough to put yourself out there like this. After all, your face-to-face interaction could be broadly rejected. No one likes rejection. It always stings. And most of us have experienced this type of affront to our dignity and composure, not to mention our self-confidence.
Still, there can be no meaningful connection without some risk. If risk is acceptable in pursuing a tangible goal, such as landing a promotion, competing for top salesman of the month, negotiating a lucrative contract or renegotiating terms of a deal, it should be acceptable in the all-important arena of lasting relationships.
Why the effort matters.
Why make the effort if you’re only going to be involved with someone intermittently or a single time? Think about what impression you make whenever you first meet someone. You never know the length and depth of the relationship you make will turn out to be. The man or woman you court today to gain favor or make your point may become your boss or neighbor or your child’s teacher. Besides, if you want to instill the proactive behavior of genuinely seeking to make the connection, you need to practice.
Casual conversation is the best place to start.
There’s no better practice than in casual interaction. Some might say that this is the heart of human kindness, to be open and genuine when nothing hangs in the balance. In other words, real connection happens when you’re not expecting something in return. You’re being generous of spirit, giving of yourself, allowing your vulnerability to show.
For example, a relatively nonthreatening way to connect with another might occur at a local coffee shop you regularly frequent. Check out the nametags on the cashiers and baristas and make it a point to say hello and mention their names. After a few times doing this, you’ll find it easier to add something to your interaction, such as commenting on how quickly they get your order up, or saying something complimentary about how they always manage to juggle things without getting overwhelmed. Service personnel do appreciate kind words, just like everyone else.
Decide on and plan.
Reformatting how you approach another person to make a connection demands a plan. You need to think about what you’re going to say before you say it. Take a breath and consider this carefully. Practice active listening, paying attention to what the other person says without queuing up your response or immediately trying to get your points across.
Suppose you are preparing for an interview and this is very important to you. Jobhunting experts recommend learning as much as you can about the company and interviewer as possible prior to showing up. That way, you’ve got information you can use during the interview to show you’re industrious and respectful of the time both of you are spending together. It may not exactly be common ground, but it shows initiative, always a good thing when you’re trying to make a good impression.
Remember, life is always made up of small moments. Each one of them is memorable and will never come again. Think about that before you blow off an opportunity to interact with another individual, whether casually at the grocery store, while taking out the trash for pickup and seeing your neighbor doing the same, or during encounters with co-workers, classmates, on the phone with your bank or while trying to obtain assistance from customer service.
Treasure these small moments. Steel your courage, if that’s what it takes. Extend yourself. Make the connection. You’ll be glad you did.