“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection. Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.” ~ Brené Brown
When was the last time you looked into the eyes of a stranger such as a guy taking your order or the woman at the checkout and really acknowledged their presence? Actually, when was the last time you looked into the eyes of your partner or your children for a prolonged stretch of time?
In our hectic lives, we are always so busy trying to accomplish one thing or another, that it’s easy to become distracted and disconnected from the people around us. Here are my 6 top tips on how to bring more presence and connection into our everyday encounters with people. These things don’t take much time but have the potential to transform any relationship.
1. Make eye contact
“I see you.” ~ Na’vi greeting in Avatar
It seems simple and obvious but checks how often and for how long you actually make eye contact with the people you encounter during your day. Then consciously try to increase that time. Eye contact creates instant connection and intimacy, even with strangers. Not only will it make you really see the other person, it will also allow them to really see you. Give people the gift of your presence.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ~ Stephen R. Covey
Don’t be one of them. How often do you find yourself already coming up with an answer in your head before the other person has finished talking? I know I do sometimes. When I do and I notice, I consciously stop, clear my mind and try to listen without an agenda. I make sure I really understand the other person before thinking of my answer and if necessary, I feedback what I understood and check with them to make sure I understood correctly.
3. Drop your agenda
“Postpone result/solution thinking until later; it’s through the connection that solutions materialize – empathy before education.” ~ Marshall Rosenberg, creator of Non-Violent Communication
Often we engage in conversations and encounters with other people with set agendas in mind and we focus on the outcome we want to achieve rather than on connecting with the other person. It’s okay and natural to have a preference for a certain outcome but if we are able to keep our minds open and aim for connection and understanding first and foremost, we might just be surprised at the solutions that emerge from that openness. They tend to be better and more effective than the solutions either person could have come up with on their own.
“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” ~ Brene Brown
For real connection to happen you have to have the courage to let yourself be seen. People instinctively know when you are speaking from the heart and when you are holding back. Most people will happily accept your invitation and reciprocate your vulnerability if they feel safe. It is an incredibly healing and fulfilling experience to meet another person without hiding behind masks. By realizing that we have very similar fears and needs we already feel less isolated and more supported in our daily struggles.
5. See with fresh eyes
“As soon as you make your mind up about people, you stop seeing them as they are.” ~ Unknown
Making up our mind about people and who we think they are is the biggest killer of true connection. It does injustice to the fact that people change and evolve all the time and makes you interact with the image you created in your mind rather than the person in front of you. The danger is that if you project your images onto people for long enough, they start to live up to them, especially children, who are very sensitive and responsive to such projections. So be careful what images you create or even better, don’t create any to start with. Try and give people the benefit of the doubt and learn to live with uncertainty. Try and see them as if you knew nothing about them and be open to being surprised. You may just discover completely new sides to people.
6. Practice, practice, practice
“I now see how gifts like courage, compassion, and connection only work when they are exercised. Every day.” ~ Brene Brown
We forget. We screw up. We get scared. That’s okay. Just keep trying.
** What is one thing you can do today to bring more presence into your relationships and connect with those you love at a deeper level? You can share your comment by joining the conversation below 🙂