How well do you connect with others?
How deep can you take the initial connection and develop a deeper relationship?
“Connect” as defined by The New Oxford Dictionary on my MacBook Pro, is
* To bring together or into contact so that a real or notional link is established
* join together so as to provide access and communication
* associate or relate in some respect
* (of a thing) provide or have a link or relationship with (someone or something)
* form a relationship or feel an affinity
Thanks to technological advances and modern media our contemporary society is more connected than ever before. Yet, hardly any of us need to be told that we are less socially engaged than ever before. It seems that to the degree of our connections through social media to the opposite degree are our interpersonal and intimate relationships. Indeed, people are connecting more but relating less.
It also appears that many are starved for relationships but have apparently not learned the art of connecting well and in healthy ways. Even this post on the art of connection can easily be irrelevant if it is merely an informational piece that is not applied.
In fact, an individual can be a skilled and polished communicator and a relatively good listener yet never really connect with people. Extroverts and those who thrive on being with people seem more adept at connecting but may never engage and relate to others in healthy ways.
Good leaders connect with people. Great leaders do so effectively. Leaders influence others. Good leaders influence others for the good of the individual and/or the community. John Maxwell in his Becoming a Person of Influence wrote, “Connection is …absolutely critical if you want to influence people in a positive way. When you navigate for others, you come alongside them and travel their road for a while, helping them handle some of the obstacles and difficulties in their life. Yet when you connect with them, you are asking them to come alongside you and travel your road for your and their mutual benefit.”
There is a difference between the act of connecting and the art of connecting. On the one hand, the act of connecting is merely relating at a basic, casual or surface level. Social media and technology have made this skill quite easy. On the other hand, the art of connecting is taking the relationship to deeper layers in ways that are valuable and effective for positive influence. This is how many can experience new emotions and level of connection with people.
The act of connection requires listening and good verbal skills but the art of connection also requires respect, sharing similar interests, experiences and values, having a sincere interest in helping people grow and succeed, the ability to empathize. In other words, positive, healthy and effective connections are other-focused that is not only for your interest but also in their best interest. The art of interpersonal connection does this.
So, what are some ways to effectively connect with people?
Here are six suggested ways to take connecting from an act to an art that makes for better, more effective relationships:
1. See people as having value. After all, they are made in the image of God.
Have a healthy interest in others. Selfish people may be able to connect but they rarely make solid connections. Proud people at times will connect with others, though it tends to be shallow and short-lived. Humble, other-focused people genuinely relate and make a significant connection with others.
Recognize and respect differences in people’s personalities.
Treat them with kindness and courtesy. Remember Christ’s “golden rule” (Luke 6:31).
Give them a sense that they are really important. They may not be important to you but they matter to God! Making one feel important is more powerful as a motivator than money, promotion, working conditions, or almost anything else.
2. Take the initiative to better know them and to consider how you might help them.
Greet them warmly.
Meet them sincerely.
Consider them potentially.
At one point, the vast majority of friends you have were unknown strangers. For a variety of reasons you and those strangers became friends. All strangers are potential friends. So, seek to get to know others with whom you connect by considering how you might become friends. One helpful tool I use is the acrostic “friend” (see below). Most people are happy to tell you about themselves, but be aware of those who could feel distressed by your questions. Obviously, you need to be sensitive to body language or verbal cues that could indicate they are too uncomfortable with your inquiry. In any case, you can come up with additional questions or thoughts, but these are useful for starters:
Discover something about the person and his or her family. Does s/he come from a small or large family? Single or married? Does s/he live with family? Etc.
What hobbies does s/he enjoy? What kinds of things does s/he like to do for fun or to express a talent?
What kinds of interests does this person have: animals, reading, philosophy, music, social cause, and so forth?
Where did s/he attend elementary or high school? Has s/he continued education beyond that? Would s/he like to get an advanced degree? Is s/he pursuing courses or seminars to enhance her or his growth?
Did sh/e recently move into the area? Need any help getting settled or finding things? Looking for a new church? Financially challenged? Is there anything that I or we can reasonably do to help?
As Christians, we have the greatest answer to the deepest and most serious need of all!
Dinner or dessert –
At this point, you may wish to take your connection to the next level. You could simply ask something like, “How would you like to get together for coffee?” Perhaps even be bolder and say, “We’d like to have you over for dessert, would you be interested?”
3. Find common interests or share common experiences.
4. Communicate from the heart.
Don’t center the introduction or conversation on your own life. Allow the other person to get to know you, but make it a higher priority to find out about their lives. For some people, this will be quite easy as they if they are more outgoing, needy, or even self-absorbed. For others, trying to draw them out in order to engage them in a caring way might be met with skepticism or distrust, or perhaps they do not know how to talk about themselves without being too self-conscious.
One way to communicate with heart this is to actually say, “Tell me, what’s your story?” Then listen with attentiveness and empathy. Be honest and authentic in the dialog, and let them do most of the talking.
5. Spend time with them in order to connect at a deeper level.
Spending time by sharing something in common helps build relationships. Certainly, there are many ways to spend time together. However, three effective ways to get to know someone better are eating a meal together, having fun together, and working on a common project together.
6. Sustain an on-going connection through genuine care:
a. Encourage – build them up, help to increase their confidence, and give them hope for the future.
b. Appreciate – show gratitude for their specific contributions.
c. Affirm – show and tell them you admire their personal gifts, talents, and strengths.
d. Recognize – express to others their accomplishments. Brag about them in a way that is truthful and elevates them in the eyes of others.
e. Confront – with permission, address his or her failures, mistakes, or sins with gentleness, truth, and love so that s/he may change, grow and improve.
Connecting with people has never been easier than it is today. However, connecting with people at a deeper relational level has, for many, become an unknown skill or a lost art. This article provides you with six suggested ways to take connecting from an act to an art that makes for better, more effective relationships. Practice one or more of these things each day and watch how you will begin to develop better relationships and more friends.
Having trouble connecting well with others? Contact me!