“Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued, when they can give and receive without judgment.”
– Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead
A young mothers group, the President’s Club, Lean In circles for women daring to be ambitious, any healthy relationship between two people.
What do each of these have in common?
First, the people involved have similar experiences and interests which bring them together. And secondly, if the group or rendezvous is to be defined as successful, then it means that those involved feel their presence is noticed, welcomed and appreciated. And most importantly, there is a mutual understanding of the excitement, fears and doubts that all parties involved are/have going/gone through which helps to reduce judgment and instead instigate genuine support and understanding thereby creating the genuine connection that Brene Brown writes and speaks about.
The paradox of making connections with others is that (1) we can feel alone while we are in a relationship with someone, (2) in a room crowded with people or (3) even if we have thousands of “friends” on social media networks. So where and how do we seek authentic connections?
First and most important, come to understand the definition of connection. Just as in each of the above three examples mentioned, it becomes more apparent as to why it is possible to feel alone - (1) your partner doesn’t hear you, what you say doesn’t matter if it doesn’t correlate with what they want (2) you don’t have the same values as the people in the room, and (3) none or very few of the people would notice if you “unfriended” them.
Dr. Brene Brown shares in her book Daring Greatly, that science has shown we are hard-wired for seeking social connections. While everyone’s level of connectedness may vary (i.e. extroverts vs. introverts), she argues that at the core of why we seek connections is to know that we exist, that we are loved, needed and valued. And when, in our minds, we don’t feel “seen, heard or valued”, we suffer.
What do faux connections look like:
- having to change what you believe, value or are passionate about to belong
- being agreeable all of the time even when you don’t agree
- dating or marrying someone to lift the social burden of being single
- having a long list of “friends” on social media without one to call on during times of trouble, worry or emergency
- endless taking by one party without appreciation
- endless giving by one party in order to please – being used simply because you are made to believe you “should” do something or if you don’t you won’t be accepted
What do authentic connections look like:
- perfection isn’t required
- similar interests/passions
- having a differing opinion won’t exclude you from the group
- trust in the other party or person to show up authentically
- being able to be yourself
- a belief that you bring value to the relationship or group with your presence
- both parties give and receive equally and willingly
Everyone connects with different types of people; however, at the foundation of each of these connections runs a common thread. I’d like to encourage you to take some time today to examine those relationships and groups you feel, or have felt in the past, to be the most connected to and genuinely enjoyed being a part of. Why?
Most likely, it was because you could truly be yourself, you could let your hair down, and feel as though you were contributing something of value. A variety of connections come to my mind as to when I felt/feel the most connected: my high school sports teams, my grad school cohort, my parents, my closest friends, my niece, being a pet owner, as a teacher in the classroom, with my mentor of more than ten years, a romantic relationship that I was too young to appreciate, and currently with my readers here on the blog.
Now, the how. How do we find the authentic connections that we seek?
- Understand yourself and come to appreciate all that you are and are not - once you respect your innate passions, quirks and curiosities, the path you should follow becomes clearer. It may not be crystal clear, but at least you can point yourself in the right direction. And it is on this path that you will have the opportunity to meet people to create genuine connections with. (Click here to find out how to get to know yourself).
- Be observant - while at work, be observant of those who appear to have similar interests or approaches or are experts in their field. In your personal life, be curious about events, gatherings, say yes to invitations that you want to learn more about or already have an interest in.
- Be curious – be brave and willing to introduce yourself and ask questions. Listen, but also be authentic in your response. It is the combination of authentic representation of ourselves and discovering similarities with others that sparks ignite.
- Be authentic – don’t over-share or reveal unnecessary stories about yourself as a way to try and impress or connect with someone. Remember to be authentic. Desperation is easily sensed, but on the flipside, so too is genuine interest.
- Be patient – when getting to know someone you’ve just begun dating or a regular group gathering you’ve just started to attend, take your time to observe who they really are by seeing them in a variety of scenarios or overtime. Anyone can make a great first impression with practice and honed skill, but it is the follow through that should seal the deal.
- Keep your word – in other words, be honest and forthright. Sometimes there will be instances when you have to cancel plans, but be honest as to why and do so as much ahead of time as possible if this is a relationship you want to strengthen. However, do your best to match your actions with your words. People remember what you do, so make sure it’s worth remembering.
- Be vulnerable – as the relationship progresses, in order to strengthen the bond, authenticity is required. And in order to be authentic, the masks that we put up for the rest of the world to protect ourselves must be removed from time to time. Take a risk and invite your date to your favorite pastime, or in a meeting with a trusted colleague, share your idea that you were too afraid to share in front of everyone. By revealing yourself, you discover how deep the connection can go and if it will last. Do this gradually – the revealing of yourself - and as you do you will draw to yourself people who you can create genuine connections with and as an added bonus, you will become more comfortable in your own skin.
Once we understand how successful relationships work, we can focus on strengthening the ones we already are a part of and seek out ones that would bring even more value and enjoyment to our lives. And as we live with intention, what we spend time doing grows and multiples.
I don’t know about you, but quality relationships, rather than a multitude of faux relationships for appearance sake is certainly part of my definition of a simply luxurious life. Have a wonderful Monday everyone.
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