I recently posted an article about my love of spending time in solitude. I wrote about how spending time alone is important, enjoyable and self-revealing. While I will always be one to seek solo experiences, I've lately been recognizing my need to seek connection.
However, this need is not solely my own. This need for connection is hardwired into all of us. It is quite literally a matter of neuroscience.
This need is a fact.
This need is ours.
We were created for a connection that satisfies us on a physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual and biological level. Brené Brown says that connection begets connection and without the reciprocated energy of others, we suffer on all of the previously mentioned levels.
When I speak of this reciprocated energy, I'm referring to the energy that is exchanged between people when they make a connection that does not include screens or social media masks. I'm talking about that real, vulnerable, face to face, I hear you, you listen to me, substantial, human-interaction experience. It doesn't have to be emotional, it doesn't have to be serious, it just has to be genuine and all involved have to be present in that moment. That is reciprocated energy. That is the connection.
The more I thought about my inclination towards being alone, the more I began realizing that connection, for me, can be hard work.
I immediately thought why is connection a struggle if it's something that I'm hardwired to do?
I've reached the understanding that connection is difficult for me because I battle with seeking and accepting help. At the end of the day, my struggle is with the vulnerability aspect of connection.
The following is a list of practices that I strive to implement in my own life. These practices increase connection and encourage the deconstruction of the walls we so often build around our vulnerability.
1. Don't mistake simple communication for connection
Having an online/social media presence allows for communication (not connection) to take place. A "comment" here and a "like" there does not constitute a human connection experience. I recognize the hypocritical nature of communicating this message through an online platform but let's look at it this way: I'm communicating a message that will hopefully encourage connection.
2. Practice courage
I gained inspiration on this topic from Brené Brown and I feel I would be remiss if I did not incorporate her definition of courage: In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant "To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart."
By practicing courage according to this definition, you are practicing vulnerability. Yes, this is scary, exciting and immeasurably challenging (and even that is an understatement) but I’ve found that most anything worth doing is. The payoff can only be as big as the risk taken to get there.
3. Count your I's
How many times are you saying the word “I” when in conversation with someone else? Are we really connecting with another individual if the only connection we can make is to ourselves? I’ll help you out… NO, you aren’t truly connecting if you’re constantly turning the conversation back onto yourself.
Make it about them, make them feel heard, valued and appreciated. I think that we all have an intrinsic desire to be wholeheartedly heard.
4. Hear and here
One of the most crucial components of connectedness is being here and being able to hear. This means that we must disconnect in order to connect.
If we want to be here in the moment, wherever and whenever that moment is, we can't have our minds wandering someplace else. We can access our social media communication at any time but we are not always guaranteed access to an in-person connection.
So, when you find yourself with the opportunity to connect, show that person you’re listening and that you are not only listening to them but also hearing them.
Nod every so often, engage in the conversation, release any thoughts or questions that are distracting you from receiving the other person’s efforts to connect with you. that you can fuel others.