Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued – when they can give and receive without judgment – Brene Brown
What makes a connection meaningful?
When I was a teenager, perhaps like many teenagers, I believed that someone was important if I shared my most important secrets with them and they shared their secrets with me. How awful was a day that I might discover they had shared my secret with others or stopped telling me their most intimate thoughts! In my teenage experience, this is what it meant to have a ‘meaningful relationship’.
Fast forward to 2011 when I attended my coach training program. I completed the first three-day intensive and what we had really focused on was Listening, and the idea of asking questions. Then they sent us off and told us to ‘start coaching’! Flabbergasted and feeling completely unprepared, we protested: “How could we begin coaching people? We hadn’t learned enough yet!” And the reply that came has not only stuck with me for the 11 years since that training but has been confirmed likely thousands of times:
“Listening deeply to someone with the heartfelt intent to really hear them and understand them is what most people are yearning for. If you only ever did this, you would have a successful coaching practice. Go and give the gift of listening.”
When they said this, I knew it to be true. Over the course of the three days, we had learned to open our hearts and really listen to each other in ways we never had before. We listened and we shared and in the end, we all felt seen, heard, and valued.
At that moment, I was able to update my youthful understanding of meaningful connections. Although some of the people in the room would only be in my life for a matter of months, any moment that one of us shared our heart and was heard or listened to with reverent devotion to the heart of another, a meaningful connection was created.
Why are meaningful connections so important to well-being?
“When we seek for connection, we restore the world to wholeness. Our seemingly separate lives become meaningful as we discover how truly necessary we are to each other.”
If you have a dog as a pet, you know the dog cannot be left alone for days, not only because they need to go out, but because if they don’t have a connection with you, they will likely tear up your house! Even my cat, that can be left alone longer, always acts out when I return. You can observe monkeys, elephants, and even tigers – we discover the same thing, they need their pack.
In fact, we are wired with mirror neurons, which are cells in the brain, that tune us into the behavior of others because this is how we learn how to be human! And there is extensive research that indicates meaningful connections and strong relationships can lower anxiety, reduce depression, help us regulate our emotions, increase empathy and self-esteem, and even improve our immune system.
In short, even if we are introverts, meaningful connection is at the heart of our well-being.
The truth is that as Margaret Wheatley points out in the quote above, meaningful connection is how our otherwise separate lives come to have purpose. We amass accomplishments and achievements and are perhaps even seduced into thinking that these ‘trophies’ will strengthen our confidence and self-worth. In fact, it is our relationships, our acts of kindness, our moments of being there with and for others, that make our lives rich and meaningful.
This truth was borne out In a longitudinal study that began in 1938 and lasted 80 years by Harvard researchers. They found that regardless of physical health indicators such as cholesterol levels, “the people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.”
My belief is, at the core of the mental health crisis we are facing right now as a country and globally, is caused by the diminishment of meaningful connections in our lives.
Next week, in PART II of this blog series, I will discuss what the primary culprits are that interfere with or seem to be diminishing our experience of meaningful connection in our lives.
In the meantime, if you are seeking a more meaningful connection with yourself or others, join us at any point this month in Curiosity Crusaders where we will be focused on strengthening our meaningful connection to ourselves and others. Sign up at www.CuriosityCrusaders.com and use the code: may100 at checkout.
Want to connect with me one on one for a meaningful conversation? I look forward to getting to know you and what you hope to learn as a member. Book A 15minute Chat.
Connecting Meaningfully is a Practice.
Curiosity is a Practice.
Practice with us this month in Curiosity CrusadersTM