Someone said to me not too long ago, “Do you have to over-think everything?” I replied, “It’s possible I do over-think things. It’s also possible I’m just thinking, which turns out to look like over-thinking to people who under-think everything.”
One of the topics I spend a lot of time thinking about is connecting with people in a meaningful way. Of course, what is meaningful to me isn’t necessarily meaningful to another. But even finding out what others would find a meaningful form of connection, is in itself meaningful.
I offer my thoughts on what I consider meaningful relationship connection to stimulate deeper thinking about it, not as a prescription for anyone else. Spending time reflecting on what you consider meaningful would, in my view, be time well spent. Below are a few points that describe where my own reflection has taken my thinking.
One-On-One: In my experience, trying to have a deep, meaningful conversation in the midst of a group interaction, especially social gatherings with family and friends, is like trying to rake leaves in the wind. If I want to connect with someone in a way that gets beyond superficial chit-chat like talking about sports, weather, pop culture and current events, I seek out one-on-one time with that individual. In group settings, even if I can get a moment of one-on-one conversation, within about 7 seconds, someone else will be coming to find out what we are talking about.
Questions for reflection:
Who are the individuals with whom you desire a better connection?
How much one-on-one time do you have with each of them?
Meaningful Knowledge of Each Other: During one-on-one interactions, I want to let the other know something about me and learn something about the other. This is a major gauge for me in how well I handled myself. Did I let the other in? Did I let him/her know me beyond the superficial kind of information that can already be found on social media? Did I show any curiosity in knowing something deeper about the other? Below are points of interest that for me lead to a greater appreciation for the other, and the relationship.
- Highs and lows of one’s life experience
- Current goals and aspirations
- Current challenges and how one is handling them
- Long term hopes and dreams
- What each has been up against in life or had to overcome to get where s/he is
- Situations that are currently fueling anxiety
- Discussion about the kind of relationship that each of us would consider optimal
- Beyond day-to-day events, how one is thinking about and responding to those events
Of course, not every relationship can or should have a “level 10” connection. For each individual important to you, how clear are you on what level of connection you would consider optimal. Though the breadth and depth of connection will vary from one relationship to the next, there is one thing I hold as a strong conviction. If there is to be any progress toward meaningful connection, someone has to take the lead on it. Improving connection can only be led by someone who is thinking about it. Otherwise, the automatic tendency toward superficial, impersonal conversation supersedes.
Finally, if connecting with people on a deeper level takes such an effort, why bother? Simply put, greater connection supports health and well-being. It also affords one with greater influence in relationships. For anyone seeking calmness and wellness in a relationship with a spouse/significant other, learning to connect is smart. For any parent hoping to influence a teenage son or daughter, learning to connect is smart. For any leader hoping to influence those s/he leads, learning to connect is smart. For anyone hoping to be more effective with colleagues or bosses, learning to connect is smart.
- Select someone who is important enough to you to make an effort to better connect
- Jot down 6 or 7 bullets that would describe what you consider to be an optimal relationship
- Assess how well the way you have handled yourself with that person lines up with your bullets. What if anything about yourself would you change?
- Check out with the other person how your idea of what is optimal lines up with his/her view of what would be optimal
- Take the risk to share something about your interactions with that person that you want to shift.
- After the conversation, reflect on how that conversation compares to the typical interactions you have with that person and observe how the interaction affected you.
- Repeat with others
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