Do you ever feel like the time we spend behind our screens has challenged the way we connect with other people? There seems to be a gap between what's being said and what's really being understood. Mindfulness authors, Teasdale, Williams, and Segal (2014) say that there are 2 ways of knowing anything - by first thinking about it, and then by bringing our attention right into it, inside, deep within. This rule applies not just to understanding our current states but in getting to know other people too.
So how can we dig deep enough to find out, learn more, and empathize? What will it take to really connect and form relationships that are truly nourishing? Here are 3 ways that can improve your ability to connect to anybody:
1. Look into their feelings.
When we listen to people's problems, our human tendency is to problem solve. Hardly do we take the time to look in and ask "how does that make you feel?". One way to really connect to a situation is to focus on the feeling that is being expressed. You might hear someone ranting, but their tone of voice is exasperated, frustrated, sad. Or you could be listening to the most exciting love story and notice that when they sigh it seems to come with a heavy feeling or a sense of relief. Lean in closely and find out what feelings are surfacing, and reflect this back to them by telling them what it is you're picking up. If you're not sure, then all you have to do is ask.
2. Capture what they're trying to say.
So they sound exasperated but they insist on keeping up with this crazy love affair. What are they really trying to say? Sometimes what's being said on the surface is not what is most honest to the soul's needs. One good way to establish a connection is to find out what's not being said, or what more could be said beneath the surface. It's always worth digging a little deeper, so find out.
3. Go with the flow and match their tempo.
Another way to really connect with someone is by going with their flow and meeting them where they are. If someone comes to you with a specific topic they'd like to talk about, ride that wave before trying to change the subject so easily. Just lean in and listen.