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Have you ever contemplated the power of human connection?

Connection is right in the middle of Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. Our brains are designed to be social and there are numerous examples in today’s society where the need to ‘belong’ is more powerful than the need for personal safety. An abusive relationship is just one example.

We’ve all had times when we’ve felt disconnected. Perhaps it was because you were isolated, unappreciated or undervalued.  Maybe your contribution was over-looked or dismissed, or worse – your voice was not even heard!

Rejection activates the fear networks in our brain, releasing harmful cortisol and prompting defensive or protective behaviours. But when we feel seen and understood, we feel safe to be our best self.  We’re free to be curious, take risks, create and innovate.

The ability to connect to others is essential to creating healthy relationships, personally, socially and professionally. Unfortunately it is also something we may assume we do without stopping to see if this is true.

When was the last time you checked to see if you were really connecting with the person you were speaking or listening to?

Emotional Environment

What sort of emotional atmosphere do you create around you?

It’s not so easy to feel connected to someone who only engages in positional or ‘Command-and-control’ conversations.  This style of communication is a one-way street and precludes a sense of inclusion for the listener.

Many of us also suffer from a Need to be Right. Holding this positional space we try to force others to concede to our point of view. From this place there is no room for curiosity or genuine desire to learn and understand another’s perceptions and reality, essential elements for true connection.

Connection is not only built by the way we speak – it’s also a result of the way we listen. What ears do you wear in your daily conversations?  Marshal Rosenberg (Non-violent communication) once said: “We all have the choice to hear everything that has been said with the ears of a wolf – or with the heart of a giraffe.”

While our intention as speaker is of fundamental significance, so too, is our intention as listener. Do you strive to listen to connect and understand, or to misconstrue and object? As individuals and in the process of business we pay a high price when someone feels disconnected.

In a study done by Matthew D. Lieberman and associates at UCLA, participants were connected to fMRIs (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) devices and invited to play a game of cyberball. When the invisible online players stopped passing the e-ball to the study participant, the area of their brain that lit up with this activity was the same area that registers physical pain. This led Lieberman and his colleagues to conclude that social pain (i.e. rejection, exclusion, ostracism) is felt as physical pain.

Interestingly, regular painkillers blocked the pain in the same way they do physical pain.

Self-Review

Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself (or others, if you’re up for a different perspective) to review and refine your ability to connect:

  • How aware am I of the emotional states of the people around me?
  • How much do I connect with the people I interact with at work?
  • Do I approach others from a place of curiosity and trust?
  • Does my general communication style foster genuine connection, or is it mostly transactional or positional?

If you’d like to know more about some simple ways to use the chemistry of conversations to greatly increase your power of connection and enhance your relationships, give me a call. I’d love to connect with you.

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