Connecting through disconnecting

How on earth can avoiding eye contact, not talking, and box sets help us connect more? Read on...

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Hello! We had our second club get-together on the theme of ‘connecting with others’ last week. And these Happiness Club themes are rather neat - many of our Giving theme commitments were a form of connecting - with our grandparents, chatting to homeless people etc. This time we were a 50:50 male-female group - and yes, the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus did come up on the subject of communication! So what did we learn this time?

Remove eye contact – yes, really!

'When have you felt deeply connected to someone?' was a question we discussed. One member described an 8-hour hike with his partner. They just talked and talked. Walking has this effect - once you get all the chatter out of the way, you start getting into old memories and sharing all sorts of things. Apart from the extra time you have, according to a very impressive work colleague of mine, it’s due to the fact that you don't have to make eye contact! People feel free to explore and express their thoughts without having to maintain eye contact and be scrutinized. Which is also why you get more dialogue out of your kids when driving. What a great concept and a counter-intuitive one - disconnecting on one level helps connecting on another (I've just searched for a link to any research on this and seem to find only the opposite, so its clearly very counter intuitive – I'd love to hear your thoughts as readers).

Experience stuff together

My recent deep connection example was skiing with my husband. For me this is about experiencing things together - the views, scary runs, some extreme weather. A moderate amount of talking, not much eye contact but enjoying uninterrupted time in each other’s company. Of course on treks and skiing, you are disconnected from every day life and all the noise, and this really helps to connect with our loved ones. What about in daily life, with its distractions? My favourite lazy fix is watching a good box set together. As an addict, I once managed to find an article justifying how this could be good for your relationship. Essentially you are going through the roller-coaster of the series together, sharing in the emotional journey, bonding through the adrenaline. You are also able to ‘just be’ in each other’s company without the requirement to speak – which might work with both male and female communication styles, and it doesn't just have to be with your partner. Clearly this also requires the patience to wait for each other between episodes - I don't think the 'alone viewing' option fits with the connecting theme!

WhatsApp wisely

We can't talk about connecting in 2015 without talking about technology, and indeed, this came up in discussion. It started with a member saying that despite all these apps creating distractions, her family WhatsApp group helps her connect more with her international family. This got me very excited because I also found it quite important for my sanity when I was in the early months of motherhood. It was hard to co-ordinate a phone call or meet up with other mums when each of us was on our own unique timezone, but you could always send a small WhatsApp group message and get a response, or leave a 'VoiceApp' rant to a close friend (i.e. you can record a WhatsApp voice message and they can listen to it when they have time, rather than seeing a missed call, missing you back, and so on).

As another member pointed out being up to date with all your family's latest photos shouldn’t replace the need to pick up the phone or arrange a meet up! Using it wisely means translating the higher levels of non real-time contact into more actual meet ups too.

Be vulnerable…carefully

We agreed that in order to really connect with people, we had to be able to be vulnerable. One member, who had moved countries a lot, was shy but needed to make friends quickly. She always let herself share a vulnerability with people and this helped her make friends. Warning! The conditions need to be right. To really be vulnerable, we need to feel that the other person won’t judge us or use our vulnerable words against us in the future. Being vulnerable also means potential for hurt when others break the connection and don't stay in touch – as a club we had all experienced this. And depending on the experiences we each had, we all had different views on how acceptable it was to ‘be rubbish’ at staying in touch.

I say we all have our ways of connecting that feel natural, lets enjoy those and allow those we love to do the same where we can. This might require a bit of detaching from our own expectations but will probably make for a much more authentic connection, or a natural ending.

So my question to you is: what might you temporarily disconnect from - one of your senses, an expectation, a technology - in order to connect more deeply?

More next time! And till then, follow me @mayagudka on Twitter

p.s. A little Happiness Club tip neatly linked to the Connecting theme for other club founders. I ask the group to come with their calendars (i.e. their phones) so that we schedule the next meet up in about 3 minutes at the end of the event - so effective! And could work with other group get togethers too.

Maya Gudka, Executive Coach, London Business School

Executive Coach & Facilitator; Positive Psychology Practitioner & Researcher; , YourPlate; London Business School

I use evidence-based Positive Psychology approaches, as well as years of Economics Consulting experience to access the right level of breadth and depth for each client on their personal and professional journey. I am one half of YourPlate, which uses strengths and personality based approaches to make lasting shifts in Nutrition and Health behaviours, with a fortnightly podcast where Nutrition meets Positive Psychology. I coach and facilitate on Leadership Programmes for London Business School Executives and am currently researching Leader Development.


Go to the profile of Becky Walsh
almost 7 years ago
Great blog Maya, here's my little film that piggy backs on the topic!
Go to the profile of Suzy Walker
almost 7 years ago
Love this, Maya. I love the walking side by side tip. I think you're right. Always works for me when I want to talk to my son. x