10 Ways to Connect with Others

What it Means to “Connect” and Why it’s Important

The word “Connect” has many meanings; among them: “to have or establish a rapport”,  “to place or establish in relationship” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary) and “Join together so as to provide access and communication” (English Oxford Living Dictionaries)

In these fast-paced times, we live in a paradox of being more connected and interdependent than ever, through the World Wide Web and social media, yet often feel more disconnected and isolated than we have in the past. The same tools that serve to unite us, can also divide us. Without a sense of being deeply connected to ourselves, other humans, and the Source of All that is, we cannot live as fully, joyfully, or purposefully as we were meant to – a purpose which always comes back to giving some form of love.  

And while our depth of connection with another can depend on the nature of that relationship, all connections can benefit from us being loving.

Myriad benefits of connecting include: Peace of mind, greater fulfillment and harmony in our personal and professional relationships, increased growth and learning, and an expanded worldview that includes more understanding, compassion and humility for others and ourselves.

In this blog we’ll explore 6 key obstacles to genuine connection, and 10 ways we can reclaim our connection with ourselves and others. These “others” can include a partner or spouse, family member, friend, colleague, client, boss, neighbor, grocery store clerk, airline passenger sitting next to you or any other “stranger”.

6 Key Obstacles to Connecting

1.    Labeling Someone as “Them”. We’ve all heard the saying “Birds of a feather flock together”. It’s easiest to connect with those with whom we perceive to have something in common, whether it’s our values, lifestyle, religion and/or culture. We can often feel justified in putting up walls or not making an effort to get to know those different from us. Regardless of what these “differences” are based on, anytime we label someone as “not us”, it gives us an excuse to not connect, and is the thinking that leads to violent acts.

2.    Seeing Others Through the Lens of Fear. Fear is an energy that “runs, hoards, hides, contracts, constricts, harms…” (Neale Donald Walsch). We fear not having enough time or energy to connect. We fear the unknown which translates to our hesitancy to connect with a “stranger”. Qualities related to fear include indifference, judgment, close mindedness, rigidity and pride.

3.    Being Transactional vs. Relational. Anytime we treat someone as a means to an end – a person we need to deal with simply to get what we want – we reduce their humanity along with our own. It’s the difference between ignoring the grocery clerk checking out our groceries, and engaging with them as another human being – whether it’s through eye contact, calling them by the name on their badge and/or asking how their day is going.

4.    Focusing on Our “Device” Instead of the Person We’re With. This sends a strong signal to that person that they’re not as important as the text, message or graphic on our I-phone, I-pad or computer. It amazes me how many couples I’ve seen sitting together at a lovely restaurant only to ignore each other in favor of being on their respective cell phones.

5.    Thinking “Pseudo Connecting” is the Real Thing. Having a texting relationship with someone will never take the place of being present with them face to face or even on the phone, where miscommunication is less likely and we gain much more information about what’s going on with each other person through voice tone, facial expressions, etc.

6.    Lack of Presence. This includes being lost in thoughts of the past “Oh, I shouldn’t have done that”; worrying about the future “Where will I put my relatives visiting next week?”, or simple thinking of anything that takes us away from being present with who we’re with and this precious moment. People can tell when we’re present or not.

The Ten Steps listed below can help you work through these obstacles.

Ten Steps to Finding Your Connection

1. Find the “Me” in “Them” – (the “m” and “e” are there). How are you alike?:  Sitting in the midst of a frenetic traffic jam a week before Christmas in suburban Boston, I got it. I realized that everyone was rushing around to buy presents for the same ultimate purpose: to be happy. We all want that, though may have different ideas about how to create it. In that moment, my irritation shifted to compassion. We all breathe the same air, need sleep, food and water, and experience joy, happiness, sadness, anger and loneliness. We want to love and be loved. There is so much more common to the human experience that unites vs. separates us. Focusing on how you’re already alike increases tolerance and understanding, and creates a bridge for differences.

2. Choose to see Through the Lens of Love which includes compassion, wisdom, openness, appreciation, staying, and giving. In Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People Habit 5 is “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood”.  By holding this intention, we can find it much easier to build connection quickly. To understand another more fully, say “Tell me more” with genuine curiosity. When someone senses your sincere desire to understand them, they will open up more easily and be more receptive to forming a connection. They will also be more inclined to want to understand you.

3. Recognize and Acknowledge Differences. It would be boring if we were all the same. Diversity is what makes the world such a vibrantly colored tapestry. Each of us has his own “reality” based on our upbringing and life experiences which create the perceptions and filters through which we see the world. Think of a car accident taking place at an intersection. If there were four witnesses, each standing on a separate corner, each will have a different perception of the accident based on their vantage point. Observe the other and put yourself in his shoes without judgment.

4. Identify Your Fears. Fear is often disguised as judgment that keeps you from accepting/embracing differences.  Sometimes what we fear is acknowledgement that we’re like that other person. Realize that people are often a mirror for what we like/don’t like in ourselves; if you say you don’t like someone because they’re “competitive” or “stingy”, take a look at where you are or have been competitive or stingy in your life. Another fear is of your worldview/belief system being threatened. What if you learn new information that goes against a belief system you’ve had your whole life? This can feel very threatening. It doesn’t mean the other is wrong. Ask yourself if it’s more important to hold onto your particular beliefs or to learn the truth? If you seek first the truth, you won’t be threatened by someone questioning your beliefs.

5. Put Away Your Device. If you’re going to be with someone, be with them wholeheartedly. The biggest gift we can give another is our full presence. If you’re expecting a call that’s an emergency or something that can’t be put off, then communicate that to the other person and only deal with your phone in that case. If you need to check your device periodically for a good reason, do it in another room or when the other person is in the rest room.

6. Be Here Now. Ram Dass wrote a book by this name. It’s easy for any of us to find our mind drifting from time to time. When you notice you’re only half listening to your friend or other person, come back. The point of power is in your awareness. The more often you come back to the present moment, the easier it will be to come back in the future. If there’s something heavy on your mind or that you’re dealing with that’s distracting you, share what’s happening with you to the other person to increase understanding and closeness.

7. Choose Being Relational vs. Transactional. What could it do to your sense of connection to treat every person you encountered as if they were your beloved and you wanted for them the most love and joy they could possibly experience? A student of mine recently said she went to the grocery store with the intention of seeing the divine in each person she encountered. She said it changed her experience completely as she felt people responding favorably, including coming up to her to engage in friendly conversation. You can always seek opportunities to joyfully serve others, whether through a smile, kind word or sincere compliment. Never underestimate the positive impact you can make on someone’s day by a simple act of kindness.

8. Meet the Other Person Where They Are. Speak in the other’s language, translating your experience in terms they’ll understand. For example, if you’re talking with a “thinking” type, give facts vs. feelings. If you want to relate a story about your overseas transition to someone who’s never left their hometown, relate it to a transition they have gone through, such as marriage or divorce. Metaphors are helpful.

9. Do unto Others as They Want Done Unto Them. If you love detailed reports from your subordinates, but your boss just wants the key points, give her what she wants, not what you would want. If you would love a big surprise party for your 50th birthday but your spouse is an introvert who prefers small gatherings, don’t throw a surprise party for him with 100 guests.

10. Agree to Disagree. So if you and the other disagree, so what? You can agree to disagree without making the other wrong.

Recommended Reading

Loving What Is – Byron Katie
Practicing Peace in Times of War – Pema Chodron
Influencing with Integrity – Genie Z. Laborde - https://influence-integrity.com/ 


Barbara Brady