By: Other | September 15, 2017
Written by Jennifer Wendt, Ph.D.
Do you have meaningful connections in your life? Do you feel uplifted after a conversation with a friend? Are interactions with strangers at the store pleasing to you? Humans have a core necessity to connect with others. These lend meaning and happiness to our lives.
Reflecting on our daily encounters can help us examine whether the interactions we have with others constitute meaningful connections. Countless interactions occur with family, friends, co-workers, service providers, employees in the community, children, neighbors, baristas, teachers, and coaches. The list is endless. We may not make a meaningful connection at every encounter, yet enhancing our awareness and ability to improve connections can lead to many benefits.
Meaningful connections support a holistic sense of well-being. People who are connected in positive relationships gain a greater sense of meaning and self-worth. Enhancing relationships at the office increases satisfaction at work. Research suggests we experience overall health benefits such as reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. It is also believed that caring behaviors, often demonstrated in meaningful connections, release stress-reducing hormones. Thus, it is not surprising that a phone call with a friend can help us feel more relaxed, confident, and content.
What Makes a Meaningful Connection?
Meaningful connections can occur in any interaction and are not limited to your deepest relationships. Whether it is supporting your spouse through a difficult time in their career, working on a project with a coworker, or coordinating snacks with a soccer parent, qualities such as support, positivity, honesty, compassion, and respect enhance any interaction. Connections create meaning when something personal happens. Instant bonding occurs over a shared experience that conveys respect between two people.
Easy Ways to Enhance Your Connections
1. Open Up Opportunity
Allow yourself to be available to interactions initiated by others. Start your day with the intention to increase your meaningful connections. Develop the broad intention to enhance connections throughout your day or define specific groups or people with whom you would like to enhance your connections. Think about when and where you feel least connected with others. Develop ways to make meaningful connections with them.
2. Ask Open-ended Questions
When interacting with others, asking open-ended questions creates an opportunity to learn about someone, discover common ground, and begin to establish a bond. It invites information to be shared. It demonstrates your interest in listening to what they have to say. “What is important for you to accomplish in this meeting?” “What is your ideal vacation?” “What’s the craziest thing you have seen in your job?” These are examples of conversation starters.
Listen to what others have to say and respond with interest, banter, or empathy. Preoccupation with your own day can preempt your ability to stop and listen. Demonstrating that you care builds respect and invites reciprocity. When someone feels heard, it creates a sense of value and meaning.
4. Greet Others
A simple greeting establishes an instant connection and acknowledges another person’s existence. It signals to another person that you are approachable, which may lead to continued communication or sharing.
5. Invite Variety
Connecting with a variety of people throughout the day and throughout a lifetime helps expose us to new ideas and new activities. With each person, we experience something different such as a new inspiration, new information, or a unique bond that helps bring out different parts of our whole being.
These simple strategies enhance connections at all levels including those with our spouses, our children, our coworkers, even the barista who makes our morning coffee. Enriched interactions with others increase overall health and happiness to deepen meaning in our lives.