If there’s one thing I’m deeply passionate about it’s relationship and authentic human connection.
I love connecting with people throughout my day – whether it’s just eye contact and a smile, or it’s a deep conversation. My morning starts with connection over breakfast at my local café. Buongiorno and a smile for the barrista as he prepares my cappuccino. Eye contact, a smile and a thank you (or a croissant tipped his way if I’m busy chewing) as he places my cup of frothy goodness in front of me. Last mouthful sipped down, another thank you, buona giornata and a wave and a smile as I leave the bar. It’s a daily ritual, brief (barely 5 minutes from start to finish) and it gets me grounded, present and set up for the day ahead.
Eye contact is one of those things I believe in very strongly. I get about lack of eye contact like my grandmother gets about tattoos. Eye contact is fundamental to creating an instant rapport with someone, especially strangers. I’m one of those people who takes off her sunglasses when I get stopped in the street. See me, let me see you. In Milan there are a lot of people who stop you in the street, or try to stop you anyway, to sell you books, bracelets, charms. These guys can be very persistent and walk with you the length of the street trying to persuade you. A tactic I often see used by tourists and Milanese alike is to simply ignore the seller, and virtually walk through him. Not the slightest acknowledgement of his existence. Except this tactic usually backfires as it seems to ignite something within the seller, which I make up to be a determination to be seen: he walks beside the willfully blind and pesters them until he gets a reaction out of them. I have no idea why people use this tactic of completely ignoring the sellers. It’s not something I understand. I generally don’t want to buy anything (ok, I do have a number of bracelets that I’ve picked up), and often I’m in a rush on my way to a meeting, so don’t want to stop. And, in fact, I don’t stop. I don’t need to. It takes a few seconds, while walking, to make eye contact, smile and say “ciao! Oggi no grazie. Buona giornata!”. There’s even time to shake a hand while the guy walks a few steps with me. I see you. The result is a smile and a wave from him. Connection.
These brief daily connections are easy to practise. What about the ones you need to invest in? Relationships at work and in our private life are considerably more complex and require more than just eye contact and a smile. And when we spend time cultivating the connection, creating the space for being with another person, it has the power to completely transform the dynamic of the relationship. Meaningful and authentic connection with others in our life, work and private, has the ability to make life so much easier, less complicated, and more effective.
A friend and colleague today told me, with a bit of an air of incredulity, “you know, I’ve been spending more time chatting with people, connecting with them, and yet it seems that the more time I spend connecting, the easier all the ‘doing’ becomes”. By concentrating more on “being”, he found he actually had to “do” less, and what he did have to “do” was easier than expected.
In recent months I’ve experienced much deeper connection than I thought possible. I’ve discovered that you can reach a level of connection at which working with a colleague becomes a natural ebb and flow, a dance, a co-mingling of energies that results in something far bigger and with greater impact than either one of us could achieve individually. Truly astonishing is the level of support you can tap into and that you can give to others when you put your primary focus on connecting with the person in front of you. And quite apart from all the benefits, the best part is how simply great it makes you feel. To the point that I’ve found myself grinning inanely at the sheer deliciousness of just sharing a space with a colleague, friend or family member. Now, this may all sound a bit “Californian” to some, and that’s ok, and I can still guarantee you that it works in the “real” world too.
Imagine, what is possible when you cultivate authentic human connection at work?
So, how can you deepen human connection within and beyond your personal sphere?
In a nutshell, for me it boils down to 3 fundamentals:
- be present
- be curious
- be you
Go ahead, try it!
Do you feel disconnected in a super-connected city?
Do you need more authenticity in your life?
Do you want more from relationships in general?