How often do you have meaningful conversations in a day?

If I look at my day, it starts with getting the kids up and asking them if they slept okay. The answer to that is usually a grunt or a hand gesture meaning ‘I’m not awake yet’. Sometimes they do tell me about a dream they had. Sometimes I tell them about a dream I had. And then it’s rush rush down the brush your teeth and get dressed list.

At work, the day starts with ‘Good morning, how are you?’ answered by ‘Fine and you?’. Sometimes followed by a superficial discussion about the current weather.

But then… Then I go for tea with one or two of my colleagues. And that is usually the first time in the day where a real connection happens. We see and hear each other. We notice when something is unusual, off balance or not right. We mention it, discuss it. In depth. And it makes all the difference.

We humans need connection. Mentally and physically. We need to engage with others in things that matter to us. We crave a touch or a hug. We long for people who are on a similar level, who get us, who laugh at our jokes, but who also challenge us and whom we can be totally ourselves with.

In our online world you’d think these people are more easily found. And in a way that is true. It is indeed easier to connect with people on instagram who follow the same photography or knitting passion that you have. Yet those connections stay where they are, online. They lead us to stay at home while believing we are connecting to others.

Yet true connection is meaningful human interaction.

Here are a few tips to have more of those in your daily life.

  1. Schedule time
    Add connection time in your calendar. Tea with a colleague, dinner with a friend, calling your parents on your drive to work.
  2. Have meals together
    I always insist on having our meals together as a family during the week. No interruptions. We talk about our day or the plans we have for the week. Whether it’s with your family or with friends, mealtimes allow us to learn more about each other’s life.
  3. Just say hello
    We tend to keep to ourselves when we sit in a cafe or on a bus/train, walk in the street or go shopping. How about connecting with a stranger for a change? Start with a smile. Maybe give a helping hand to someone looking or reaching for something. Say good morning or hello. See what happens. You’re on ‘neutral’ territory. So if the connection fails, or seems weird, you can simply move on. But most of the times I did that, it turned out nicely and made me feel good.
  4. Practice curiosity
    We often have opportunities to connect with people at work, networking events, gatherings of some sort. Instead of shying away from someone you find strange, why not be curious instead. Why do you feel he/she is strange? What question can you ask them to confirm/deny this feeling? How can you remain open and curious in any situation? Practice it at work with colleagues you don’t know. Don’t ask them what work they do. Ask them what made them happy today.
  5. Listen
    We all have a tendency to listen so we can answer and talk about ourselves. Really listening is being present in that moment (not thinking of what to answer or which story to tell next). It is not easy. So next time you have a conversation with someone, try to really listen and be present.
  6. The other’s shoes
    We never really know what’s going on with someone else until we walk in their shoes. And while it may be difficult to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has lost her partner, just got divorced or fired, the first step is always to imagine yourself there. Wow. How does it feel? What might she (not you) be going through? Ask her to describe it. What does she need most right now? And then listen.
  7. Lift it up
    Whenever you are in a conversation that seems superficial, ask yourself how you can lift it up. What question can you ask to steer the conversation into a more meaningful territory? Sometimes you have to start by showing your own vulnerability, by telling a story, by showing the real you. All of a sudden you will realise that people have this ‘me too’ sparkle in their eyes And bam, you’ve just elevated the connection!
    Here are a few examples:
    – What are the five most important things on your bucket list?
    – What does your ideal weekend look like?
    – If you could enter a time machine, what time period would you go to?
    – Where was your favorite place to go as a child and why did you love it there?
    – What was the first thing you bought with your own money?
    – What are your favorite three topics to talk about?
    (more here)