“The most important things in life are the connections you make with others.”-Tom Ford
I chose C for connect, as being able to connect with people is a way of bonding with others, showing that you care and that they are important. Even if you are an introvert, you can find ways that you can be comfortable connecting with others.
Why is connecting with others important? Connection is a way to develop relationships. It provides a sense of belonging. The opposite of being connected is being disconnected because being connected is about relationships and group dynamics. Social connection is a core human need. Without social connection, for example, babies could face significant developmental issues. It is also known that human connections are a key predictor of how long an elderly person may live.
Loneliness is an emotion, which can result from a lack of human connection and isolation. Loneliness can affect mental health and physical health. Lonelier people may have increased inflammatory markers. Feeling lonely increases stress and affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which regulates stress hormones. Loneliness and depression, in fact, are inter-related. Loneliness can even impact cognitive function. Studies show that people who are lonely have a significantly greater risk of developing dementia. Unfortunately, loneliness is a growing issue in society.
What can you do to strengthen how you connect with others?
- Seek out activities and events that support connecting with others.
- Challenge yourself to reach out to connect with someone.
- As you start a conversation, see if you can find a common ground with the person or group.
- Ask open-ended questions, rather than yes/no ones.
- If you see something you admire, give a genuine compliment.
- Recall from a previous conversation if there is something you want to ask as a follow-up. Asking follow-up questions shows that you listened and remembered something important to the person or group.
- Make others comfortable
- Be yourself.
- Pay attention to your body language, eg. don’t keep looking at your cell phone or computer. Make sure you maintain appropriate eye contact and that your body language is open.
- Be present. Listening and rephrasing or repeating what is said shows that you are intentionally listening and not distracted.
- Open up and share something important to you. Be vulnerable where you are comfortable in sharing.
- Be positive. Continual complaining or negative comments don’t promote trust to support a positive connection.
- Show appreciation for what was shared by thanking people for any advice, help, or support.
- Honor your relationship with them through ongoing connections and if you commit to an event, attend.
So, this Thanksgiving, give thanks by connecting with others. Seek out an older relative who may just need that connection. Reach out to friends, family, or to those who you connect with matters most. Using these tips won’t just make a difference for you, but will also make a positive impact on those who you connect with.