"Friendship" - an artwork I painted in 2005.
“Being charismatic does not depend on how much time you have but how fully present you are in each interaction.”
Olivia Fox Cabane
Connections and connection: the only difference between the two words is that extra ‘s’, yet that one letter makes a world of difference to the meaning of the words. For instance, a person can have over 1000 connections in their contact list, yet have absolutely zero connection or influence with any of them. Alternatively, someone may know 100 people and have a deep, personal and reciprocal connection with them all.
Now, you may be thinking: I have people in my life, they seem to like me, why do I need put in any more work into my relationships? Fair question and I’ll answer it with my interpretation. Life is all about relationships: life is about the relationship we have with ourselves, our family, partner, friends, colleagues, strangers, God (if you believe in one) and even life itself. Especially if you are in business, no matter what you do, you are in the field of relationship management. Everyday you work with people, customers and clients. Without customers or employees, there would be no business because there would be no one to create the product and then no one at the receiving end to use it. It really doesn’t matter what you do, where you live or who you are: whatever it is, you are and always will be, involved with relationships.
As such, the amount of time, energy, care and attention (especially care and attention) we invest into our relationships with people; family, friends, partners, colleagues and so forth, is the time, energy and care that will be reflected back to us, maybe not always from the same people we invested in, but definitely from others as life goes on.
Without further ado, in today’s blog I want to share 5 ways in which you nurture and foster a deeper connection in your relationships.
1. Keep Eye Contact and Be Aware of Your Body Language
“Nothing is more revealing than movement.”
- Martha Graham
As well as being a writer, I’m a dancer and actor. I’ve been dancing for over 20 years of my life (that’s a loooong time) and have studied acting throughout school and at University. The one thing you learn when studying both arts is that the body never lies and it is impossible to create a connection with a person, or to do any number of pirouette (turns) without looking where you are going or spotting a stationary item. Building rapport, respect and connection with people works in the same way. When someone is speaking with you, keep eye contact with them and turn your body to face them. People notice these small things because these actions say: “Keep talking, what you are saying is important, it matters and I’m listening.” On the contrary, if you are out with friends and there is someone who always checks their phone and avoids eye contact when you are speaking, you will notice that as well and probably be less likely to trust this person with information as their actions show their lack of attention, focus and care to what you have to say.
2. Listen Actively“The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.”
- Tom Peters
In my first year of drama, I had a subject called “Acting: An Introduction” taught by Dr Glen McGillivray, a tutor I really respected for his passion and knowledge in both teaching and drama. In one of our practical workshops, Dr McGillivray paired everyone and gave the following exercise: one person tells the other a story about their day, the person listening has to recount what they remember afterwards and the storyteller will assess how accurate their version is and give them a percentage to reflect their assessment. To complete this exercise successfully, it was important for the listener to be active. Many life coaches and self-development gurus talk about active listening, but what does that mean? In this case, it meant repeating the story in your mind as you are hearing it. Essentially you are participating in the storytelling process because you are joining the dots in your mind as the person recounts them. When you repeat in your mind what the person is saying, your mind is working and your questions and participation in the communication/conversation becomes more active because you are able to recall more content than if you simply stared idly into space.
3. Get Their Name Right and Use It
“Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
- Dale Carnegie
This is probably the simplest and most over-looked point when connecting with someone. Like the quote shows, the person’s name is, to that person, a very important sound. It signifies their identity, personality, story and, when acknowledged, it will have them beaming and if dishonoured, it may leave an unpleasant first impression in their memory. Unfortunately, I know this quite well. Only last year, I had a friend who was telling a story during my birthday dinner of how her brother had met me and told her that I pronounce my name ‘Ahrna’ (like in the movie Frozen - it’s the European pronunciation of ‘Anna’). This person laughed it off as ‘weird’ and ‘fussy’ and her brother would spell my name in texts as ‘Ana’ instead of ‘Anna’. Mind you, they were both attempting to establish rapport with me to sign me up to their network marketing program. Needless to say, I didn’t sign up because if someone doesn’t respect something as simple as how you like your name pronounced, then they probably won’t respect you as a business partner either.
Sometimes names can be difficult to pronounce, especially if they come from different cultures and have sounds that we aren’t accustomed to. In such cases, you can always ask the person to spell their name out, or maybe find a rhyme to it or ask them to pronounce it phonetically. To remember it better, use it in conversation or write a story about how you met them in a note on your phone.
Once you know someone’s name, make sure to use it in conversation, email, text and social media communication and watch as their eyes light up and attention swings into full gear. There are so many times when people start an email or written communication opening with “Hi,” without addressing the person they are referring to. When using a person’s name, we help them feel acknowledged and special: it is a way of saying someone, “who you are and what you say matters, and I respect you enough to care about it.”4. Schedule Regular Catch Ups
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
– Jim Rohn
It takes two to tango and it helps to dance when both people are on the dance floor, right? Similarly, if you care for someone, make sure to schedule regular face-to-face catch ups. There is nothing quite like the magic of watching people speak and smile, hands flutter in explanation and face twist into interesting shapes in hope of understanding complex stories. You see, body language makes up for 55% of our communication and while emails, Facebook messages, phone conversations are great ways to stay in contact and updated with our family and friends, nothing can substitute a deeper connection, rapport or trust than a face-to-face catch up.
5. Be Authentic
“Be who you are and say what you mean because those who matter, don’t mind, and those who mind, don’t matter.”
- Dr. Seuss
1. of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine
Synonyms: genuine, original, real, actual, pukka, bona fide, true
Oh authenticity, what a wonderful trait! And the world would be a better place if more people lived true to their authentic selves: real, original and true to who they are instead of being who their parents, teachers, society, culture and/or spouses deem them to be. Not only would the world benefit from authenticity, but so would you and your connection with people. See, it isn’t all too difficult to figure out when people are fake, when they use you or are not living true to their word: all you have to do is watch their actions and you will learn all you need. Similarly, when you are living true to your ideals and values, this will show in your actions, in your deeds and of course, in your language and communication with people. Why do collectors and galleries pay millions of dollars for the original artworks by Cezanne, Picasso, Monet, and any other famous artist, author, or designer? Because an original cannot be replaced. In this sense, when someone is genuine, honest and real, it is very easy to foster a connection with them because you no longer hold a fear of being judged or condemned for being who you are either. This originality is irreplaceable and the person’s openness and acceptance of who they are, gives you permission to be who you are.
And there we have it: five ways you can foster deeper connections with your connections.
Oh, and one last thing! I highly recommend buying and reading the book by Dale Carnegie: “How to win friends and influence people.” I learnt many golden nuggets from this classic and masterpiece.
I wish for your relationships to flourish and thrive.At the end of the day, it’s connection that keeps us alive.
Anna Krjatian is the founder and director of The Butterfly and the author of Unmasking Depression. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.