Connecting with others
Month 2 – Connecting with others
Recap from Month 1 – Giving
Our month (or two) of giving proved to be a fascinating exercise. We all committed to looking for opportunities and ways in which to give to others no matter how great or small or whether it was a material token or a non-physical gift such as time, words or an act of doing. We agreed that giving is often a reciprocal process and therefore some of us also had the opportunity to focus on feeling good about receiving gifts, compliments or acts of kindness.
I bravely experimented with a ‘yes’ day for my children. Children are often dependent on the opinion, say or approval of adults and this potentially impacts on their general sense of happiness, so, what if we said yes and responded positively to any request that they may have during the course of a day? Initially I was concerned that they may latch on to what was happening and end up making fantastical requests but actually, by giving them the power to choose what they wanted to do, eat or wear (without restrictions) they were quite happy with simply making a fruit salad, going to the park and playing with moon sand in the garden. (Admittedly they were also delighted when their request for squirty cream at 9.00 am was met with a resounding yes!) At the end of the day we happily experienced a very calm and cooperative bedtime. It might have been coincidence but in this case giving ‘choice’ resulted in a happy day for all.
Other acts of giving included letting fellow drivers out in traffic, being kinder to people who we normally find difficult to be around, complimenting friendly checkout staff and doing things for others.
We noticed that as we looked for opportunities to give we ended up receiving just as much in return. We had discussed the Law of Attraction at our meeting so were we experiencing this in action? Was more really happening in return or were we just noticing and recognising the little things? Happily, either way, it would seem that ‘The Heart that gives gathers’.
From our experience the benefits of giving not only indicated that it does indeed make us feel good and happier but it also helped us connect with others – our next topic!
Connecting – Everything is better when we’re together!
Ironically for our second meeting to discuss the topic of ‘connecting’ we, as a group, had found it quite challenging to find a time and date that enabled us to do exactly that! It is inevitable I guess that sometimes in our busy lives we find barriers to connecting.
When we did meet we enjoyed discussing the questions provided for this topic.
When did you last feel deeply connected to someone – and why?
Just as we started a couple of us got text messages. It is very much the norm these days that many connections we make are via texting or social media. Perhaps technology doesn’t lend itself to connecting at a deeper level but how brilliant that we can make instant connections with family friends and even strangers so easily.
So what helps us to feel deeply connected with someone? Having a shared history or a shared experience often helps but sometimes a deep connection can be unexpected and we might find ourselves relaying our innermost thoughts to a person we have just met. Whether it’s a stranger or a person we are close to there has to be trust in order to truly connect on a deeper level.
Emotions also play an important part in how deeply we connect. We may gravitate to a person and connect when we see them in a particular emotional state. We may connect because we can empathise or because we relate to that emotion and experience.
Connecting within a group can be quite different to connecting on an individual level and can depend on the initial welcome and how that made us feel. First impressions count!
We can connect deeply on many levels too, a deep and meaningful conversation may result in a sense of fulfilment but catching someone’s eye, sharing a smile or a fleeting touch may also create that bond. Connecting is being in tune with another person.
So who have we been in tune with? Who have we connected deeply with? For many it has been with family but as we also found we can sometimes feel disconnected to those who are closest to us.
When did you last feel disconnected from someone – and why?
Despite the close bond that my daughter and I share I sometimes can feel out of tune with her, as though we are suddenly operating on different frequencies. It can feel disorientating not being able to tap in to what she is thinking and feeling and I don’t like those times when this is the case. There often doesn’t need to be a reason for us being out of kilter it just happens and then perhaps after a few days we just suddenly click again. Having discussed this within our group it was suggested that although it doesn’t feel right it is good to be able to recognise it and respond to it rather than not notice it at all.
It is difficult with those closest to us, such as family, when we sense disconnection. We may feel angry or resentful but find it hard to say anything. Communication is an important factor here as it can be confusing if we don’t get the expected response from our conversation partner. How things pan out depends very much on how we are able to use conversational repair strategies as well as how we manage our own emotional response. Disagreements, feeling distant and awkward silences are manifestations of differing perceptions of the same experience.
When we feel disconnected to someone we can choose to re connect or not. We can build bridges by reflecting on what happened and the role we played. It is not always easy but time can help.
What is the most challenging thing about connecting with others?
As someone who is a serial ‘call avoider’ and who naturally tends to seek solitude I can find it challenging to connect with others at times. Another member of the group experiences underlying shyness (although you would never guess). As arranging this meeting had proven, time, busy lives, meeting the needs of family above our own needs and physical distance all contribute to the challenge of connecting with others.
How we are feeling can also be a barrier. If we are not feeling resilient it can be difficult to motivate ourselves to meet up with friends or converse politely with a stranger at a meeting or a party. It’s worth remembering though that often we feel better after connecting with others.
Who would you say matters the most to you – and how can you build a deeper connection with them?
We all agreed that the people who matter the most to us are generally our family and friends, however it is often those close to us that miss out on our full attention and focus. Our busy work lives can leave us with little capacity to pay the attention we want to the people we love.
It’s helpful to reflect on where we are placing our energy and then choosing to adapt in order to nurture and deepen those connections.
By rating our relationships on a scale of 1-10 we can consider how we may improve them and thus raise the score. How we go about deepening connections is unique to each relationship and the personalities, interests and motivation each person has to grow together. It might be about improving the communication by listening or it might be doing an activity together maybe even just seizing and sharing the moment.
Name three easy ways through which you might be able to help build a happier community around you.
Feeling that we belong has a positive impact on how we feel. We each belong to several communities, we have the environment in which we work, our local community, school community and friendships or local groups. We are responsible for our own happiness but we can influence others to feel good too. These are the ways that we thought we could contribute to the wellbeing and happiness of our communities:
- Connect with neighbours – have coffee, take some baking round.
- Be positive and look for the good in others – set a good example.
- School environment – Show appreciation, notice good things and comment on them.
- Social at work – Get to know colleagues better out of the work environment.
- Question jar – Make a ‘chatter jar’ by writing interesting questions on pieces of paper and discuss them with the family around the tea table.
- Taking notice of good things.
- Make compliments.
- Link in with our local Action for Happiness Happy Café.
We thought of different ways that we could connect more with others over the next few weeks.
- Connect with distant relatives by phone or Skype.
- Prioritising our time for connecting with others.
- Connecting with key people – perhaps at work or regarding interests and hobbies.
- Showing and demonstrating appreciation.
- Plan a social event.
- If thinking of someone, ring them or text them and let them know. Share a memory or express gratitude.
Connecting with likeminded people through the ‘happiness group’ is energising and motivating. To meet with purpose to discuss inspiring topics is stimulating and thought provoking. Taking away a focus for doing after each meeting is proving to be a rewarding way of developing individually and contributing to the happiness within and around us. Positive connections either planned or by chance really lift our mood.
Being happy appears to be contagious!