"Human connections are deeply nurtured in the field of shared story." - Jean Houston
Have you ever met someone and, by the end of your first visit, feel like you've known them for years?
This article is an homage to that specific feeling. What to pay attention to when connecting to others and how to listen to different parts of you through and after interactions.
The longer I live on this planet, the more introverted I become. And no, the Pandemic didn't add more introvert-ness to my plate (although I was quite relieved to be at home, taking my daily walks with my bear, and being free of engagements to attend). The Pandemic did, however, make me look at specific social circles.
Whether you're an introvert, an extrovert, an extroverted introvert (like me!), an introverted extrovert, or some other variation, it is safe to say that everyone has been affected in one way or another by the relatively steep decline of social interactions with the onset and follow-through of the Pandemic.
Even if you have incredible friends, family, and colleagues, it can still get lonely if you're going through any phase-changing moments in your life.
Loneliness doesn't just come in to greet us when we have no one to talk to.
Nope. My belief is that loneliness meets us when we are working through something big or new or challenging and we don't yet know the people who are working on their life in a similar story line. For me it was related to starting a business and feeling alone in doing so.
So, let's say you're ready to meet others and you've identified that you are looking for a meaningful connection with someone. Maybe it's a fellow dog lover to take morning strolls with before work, an accountability buddy, a new coffee and scone mate, someone to collaborate a business proposal with, or heck, you're just curious to meet new people.
You've found someone or someone found you and you've decided to meet up. A first Zoom call, walk-around, or meeting in a coffee shop.
How do you know when you and another person are groovin' with each other?
signs of a fulfilling & meaningful connection
Not all connections are slam dunks, gonna-be-your-bestie-next-week situations. That's not what I'm after here in this article.
There are signals that your body will give you, however, that will help you determine how you feel about the meet-up. So often we say "I feel good talking to this person." Well, what does good mean?
Here are some prompts to help you identify meaningful connections when meeting someone new:
Do you feel at ease or relaxed listening to them? Being the one talking? Believe it or not, these two are not always the same! -- Where in your body do you notice a shift into being at ease? i.e. shoulders feeling relaxed, warmth in your chest, jaw unclenched. Does the conversation flow smoothly? i.e. not needing to grasp at topics or search for commonalities. Is it easy to be yourself and not feel like you're being judged or judging them?
Are you engaged with their story? -- For some people it is easier to let others talk and to hold back, and for others it is easier to share without asking about someone else's story. Are you able to be engaged with their story? Do you feel a deeper connection to and in yourself by listening to them? Do you remember a lot of the conversation hours or even days later? Just as important, do they appear engaged with your story?
How do different parts of your body respond while talking with them? I love this question because it helps us learn to listen to the language of our body -- Do you notice yourself leaning forward while listening to them? Feel warmth in your chest? Placing your hands on your heart when they say something that touches you? Smiling while they talk? Leaping off your seat wanting to say "oh my gosh, that's totally true" or "That happens to you?! ME TOO!". Do your cheeks hurt from smiling or your eyes tear up with when something resonates deeply?
Are your values and actions attached to those values similar? I am not necessarily suggesting to flat out ask "what are your values? How do you support those values?" Watch them sweat and feel like they're taking a test. No, I simply mean listen to what they are talking about most and how they are talking about the subject. Do they have similar visions as you for the future of something you're passionate about? Do you find yourself drawn to their ideas and feel camaraderie building? Is there a little voice inside you that says, "YES! This person knows what's what."
For me, when I met not one, not two but SEVEN individuals this past month, I noticed my heart felt full and warm, my body felt lighter, the conversations felt easy and smooth, I was deeply engaged and in awe of their presence and stories, I felt connected to their visions, and I left our meet-ups feeling unified and stronger as a community of healers and helpers. Heck, my eyes even watered with pure elation of meeting these superstars.
Not every meet-up will feel this way. Some will feel one-sided. Others will leave you saying, "They're nice and lovely human beings, but I'm not sure about going forward with ' X ' topic with them."
If that's the case, it's okay to leave it be, and continue on your merry way. I promise, the people that light you up like a suburban Christmas display exist... and they're excited to meet you, too.
I'll leave you with a few small reminders that will help as you make meaningful connections.
Be curious -- use your curiosity instead of judgment to drive the conversation and get to know them.
Drop the expectations -- if you're expecting the connection to go somewhere immediately at the first meet-up, you will likely feel jilted when it's not met. Show up to show up.
Connecting is a two-way street -- if you feel like you're being talked over and can't get a word in, or you're the one steam rolling over the conversation, take a step back and ask yourself how it can be remedied, or if the connection needs to be terminated.
Be yourself -- It feels awful when we try to fit into a category of being that doesn't align with how we truly feel or are. It's better to be genuine and allow the connection to unfold naturally than to hide parts of yourself and feel like you're lying to fit in.
* Remember: you get to decide who you share your time with, and vice versa. We all get to find our people that we jive with. As Medical Doctor-turned Life Coach and Shaman Sarah Seidelmann says, "follow your feel good" -- this includes your people, too.