I can teach you lots of principles of connection. In fact, I’m writing on a book that covers universal principles of connection (e.g., vulnerability), why they matter, and how to deploy them. I can also teach you tactics that can help you connect in specific situations. Tactics are more situation-specific than principles so they may work better in some situations and worse in others.
I think universal principles and tactics are helpful to understand. And I’m a big fan of learning and applying these to improve yourself. Did I mention I almost never met a self-help book I didn’t like? However, there is a problem that even a self-improvement junkie like myself has with the whole process. It’s hard work to learn and internalize these new concepts. And when the pressure is on, more likely to revert to the knee-jerk reactions that got me to the place I am instead of remembering Tactic 2.5a that will take me where I want to go.
I feel quality connections with others is one of the most important things in the world to a human being. Got lots of money and can travel the world, but have no one to share it with? Have great health care and the best doctors, but no one to visit you in the hospital? Totally financially independent, but no one comes to you for friendship, only for hand-outs? Have great news, but no one to tell it to who will truly be happy for you?
Recently I was thinking about connection as a skill versus connection as a human ability that we all have, but that becomes corrupted or limited over time. Do we really need to be retaught connection? Is it possible that there is some shortcut that cuts to the essence of what we were all born knowing what to do?
As it turns out, there is a super simple way to increase your connection with almost anybody immediately. You won’t need to take a class, memorize a formula, or give me any money. It’s hiding in plain sight and we can all do it, we just choose not to. Or maybe we’ve forgotten how to over the years of being told we are an individual, being trained to be value independence and self-sufficiency, and being raised on a steady diet of competition and exceptionalism.
The secret to connection is to eliminate the distinction between yourself and others.
Allow me to explain. I don’t mean to lose yourself and to become what others are or want you to be. That’s a recipe for disaster. We’re talking about connection and not dissolving into some primordial soup.
Think about any recent argument you had or difficulty you had connection with someone.
What were the things running through your head before, during and after the encounter?
Why is (s)he being so unreasonable?
Why can’t they see why this is important to me?
How dare they think that they can do this to me?
They must be pretty delusional if they think I will stand for this?
What do you notice about all of the these thoughts? They all accentuate how you and other other person are separate players with different, conflicting agendas. And it is difficult to connect when you are heading in different directions. What if we changed this perspective. What if we started to see ourselves and others more like linked pieces of a machine? Like two gears working together.
Notice how this changes the questions above.
What are the different things we need and how can we reasonably help each other get what we need?
How can I help him/her understand how important this is to us?
Why is this happening right now and what can we do to make it better?
They must have a good reason to be doing this even though they must realize it is hurtful to us.
So if you are committed to making better connections, all you have to do is remember to do one, simple thing. Start to look at yourself and others as pieces together instead of separate parts. Approach each interaction with this mindset and you will be amazed at how easily you will start to connect with others. No lists, no worksheets, no role plays. Just a simple, but powerful perspective shift to break the chains that have been holding you back from connection all your adult life. Good luck!