C O N N E C T I N G
Ya girl Melinda bringing the wisdom and the opener for today's post on connecting with others.
Before we start, do me a favor, please, and reflect on people with whom you just VIBE. You seem to connect on the deepest of levels, and you just get each other. It's as if you're twin souls, as if you're cut from the same cloth.
Now please (so polite, I know) think of people with whom you definitely do NOT vibe. No matter how hard you try (or don't try - because sometimes it's exhausting), you just.cannot.get.on.the.same.page. You may not feel ill will toward them, but you'd be just peachy if you never cross paths again.
You likely know people whom fall on both ends of the above-outlined spectrum - as well as people sprinkled in between. C'est la vie (translation for the non Francophiles: such is life). The reality is, some of these people from whom you feel disconnected may be people you can't necessarily shun from your life completely. They could be coworkers/in-laws/spouse's friends/bosses/etc. They ain't going anywhere.
Do you ever wonder what you can do to bridge the gap between you and your non-soulmates? If so, B O O M. Today we're going to explore ways to enrich and solidify your connections with others - or at the very least, just hopefully make it less friggin' awkward and painful.
Think back to your fellow vibers. Think about how you feel during and following interactions with them. You likely feel acknowledged, right? You feel like they "see" you, they hear you, they value you. You don't feel judged or criticized. If they do dish out tough love (which in my opinion is when you KNOW you have a solid friend - more in a later post), you know it stems from a place of pure love. They care about you enough to call you out when necessary. You feel strengthened, boosted, and re-charged after speaking with them, not drained, depleted, and depressed.
Let's dissect this for methods you can use to be this person for others:
- Make the other person feel heard
LISTEN. Truly listen. Identify the non-verbals, focusing on what they're not saying (their body language, their insinuations, their possible motivations, etc). Clear your hands and your attention and give it all to them, baby. Think about how delicious it feels when someone gifts you with their full attention. Something so simple can truly have a powerful effect. It has the power to soften defenses, lower walls, enhance communication, etc. I mean, at the very least, the sooner the other person feels heard, the sooner the encounter will likely end. But...you may surprise yourself. By truly taking the time to focus on the other person and absorb their message, the more invested and engaged in the relationship you'll feel. One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.
- Be truly curious and show a genuine interest.
Ask questions. Show a genuine interest. Everyone knows something you don't. Doesn't it feel amazing when you can tell someone is taking a true interest in your life/message? Confidence booster for sure!
Without fail, the most charismatic people I know are those showing a genuine interest in others. They ask deep(er) questions, listen, then ask follow-up questions. They pay genuine compliments, beyond the "You look cute" or "You're a babe." Don't get me wrong - any genuine compliment is a good compliment - but the truly effective connectors are those who take it one step further and one level deeper. You feel like they're actually addressing you, not just any other friend of theirs.
- Meet them halfway
Drop the pretenses. The condescension. The need to show how fabulously fabulous you are. Keep it R E A L, amigos. Chances are, if you listen, you can get a feel for where the other person is coming from and meet them there. Especially if you recognize they're making an effort, don't make them go it alone. Reach out a hand.
Initially, you may have to go more than halfway, maybe even the whole way solo. Decide if you'd rather have smug justification or happy co-existence. Self righteousness is a lonely road.
And maybe you find that person I N S U F F E R A B L E. Irritating as hell. You find them ignorant, or abrasive, or self-absorbed, or whatever. Read on, my friend.
- Do your best to remain non-judgmental and open minded.
This is particularly hard when you feel they're judging you, and especially hard when you KNOW they're judging you (as evidenced by their expressed verbal judgments - in other words, they just freaking told you so). Just know that judgment stems from fear/insecurity/anxiety. People who are secure and love themselves don't feel compelled to chase feelings of superiority (however fleeting) by judging. And if they sense you're judging them (whether you are or aren't), this will likely exacerbate the session. So let it be clearly known you love and accept them as they are. This will hopefully inspire and encourage them to extend the same respect to you.
In conjunction with being non-judgmental, try to remain open minded. The person may say/do things you consider abominable, or lame, or ignorant, or EW. Hear them out, reserve judgment, and unless they're plotting to do something atrocious like murder bunnies, live and let live! Accept and celebrate your differences. Give them - and yourself - space to be yourselves.
- Grant them grace.
Understand if they're being rude/self-centered/etc, it's because of insecurity/fear/anxiety. They - just like you - are doing the best they can. It's hard being human sometimes! *Genuinely* helping them feel heard and special and valued will go a long way toward bridging that gap, and will likely lessen their compulsion/need to prove themselves to you/others, and to seek external validation.
Social anxiety is a very real thing, and for some it can be debilitating. That person you'd wish would stop monopolizing the conversation to brag about how incredible they are? They may suffer from crippling social anxiety, and simply don't know how to connect with another, so they fall back on what they know - themselves. They use it as a crutch, and would likely be horrified if they knew how they were being perceived. Trust me, it's not fun to be around, but hopefully by letting them feel heard and valued - and then gently steering the conversation to other topics - you can help them and set the precedent for better future interactions.
Release your need for validation, and your urge to show off. Not that you can't share wins - after all, true conversation should be about reciprocity - but try focusing on the other person and less on yourself.
- Focus on your commonalities
Maybe you both love tacos. Maybe you both think Tom Hardy is the dreamiest man on the planet (because he is). Maybe you share political views or an aversion to screamo emo music. If it's your mother in law, you obviously both love her son/your husband. If it's your boss, you both want the company to succeed. Whatever is, try to find and cultivate that common ground. If you're totally drawing a blank, chances are you're both humans who just want to be happy - so focus on that until you discover something else.
- Allow vulnerability.
How relieving is it when you realize the person you thought was superhuman is actually, in fact, a mere mortal? Who struggles to find time/energy to clean/work out/fold laundry? Who feels just as insecure as you about their momming skillz or math know how? Nurture vulnerability, in you and them. Give them permission to let down their guard and be vulnerable by taking the lead and being vulnerable yourself.
Often they put on a front because they feel intimidated by Y O U. By being the first to drop the cape and superhero mask, you can take the first step toward truly connecting. People typically open up if they know you care. Give them a safe space to do so.
- Remain true to you.
Obviously do right by them, but also by you. Sometimes this entails drawing a line in the sand and speaking your truth. Gently but firmly standing up for yourself. Repelling toxicity and promoting good vibes.
- Practice self awareness.
Just like you'd really like your bro's friend to get a friggin' clue how obnoxious it is to hear him tell inappropriate jokes loudly for all to hear - try to dig deep and reflect ways you could be contributing to the chasm. Is there any way your words/actions could be misperceived? This can be a slippery slope, so be careful not to go down the rabbit hole into full-fledged self consciousness. Just simply try to be aware. Maybe even ask a trusted loved one for insight.
- Level with them.
If you're still not where you want to be with the other person - try leveling with them and directly addressing the issue. Explain you feel distance, ask if the feeling is mutual, and express your desire to resolve this. Listen to what they have to say and do your best to remain open and willing to compromise.
If you have your own tips, or examples of finally connecting with someone after deliberate effort, please share in the comments below!
One thing's for sure, I love you all.