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Making Connections

This month my parents celebrate their 40th Wedding Anniversary. I’m impressed; I haven’t done ANYTHING for as long as that…

Besides the fact that my mom and dad are two of my greatest role models – with their loving and caring natures that extend far past the boundaries of home and clan, they also are amazingly cohesive, something I have been realising more and more as time goes on. Don’t get me wrong, they are two of the most different people you might find – with a wide variety of dissimilar strengths and abilities. Nevertheless, there is a connectedness that is subtle but lasting. This is how they can extend past their own personal boundaries, while supporting another. No matter what day-to-day differences, this connection defies contrasts and, instead, celebrates them.

Connections. What makes them, what breaks them, why do we connect?

1. The brain is wired that way

The subconscious mind works by association. The easiest example of this is walking into a shop or taxi and hearing an old song on the radio. Suddenly, you are transported to another experience – an earlier time, a different location under different circumstances. Not only does this work for hearing but for all the other senses – the taste of food or smell of perfume, the feel of fabric or grass between your toes, looking at an old photograph. Our mind associates, so we can process all the inputs that are coming at us as quickly as possible – clumping and filing at the same time. We also connect places, situations and feelings that way – sometimes it helps us, sometimes it doesn’t. Connecting with an embarrassing situation won’t make us feel comfortable about getting into a similar situation again. A success leads to an association with a future success. Connecting is our natural way of thinking and being.

2. Do opposites attract?

Now with people, the subconscious goes into associative high-gear. Our five senses do a rundown on another person, in part based on our past experiences and many of our earliest teachings. Stereotyping and context all contribute to our first impressions. We may be attracted to the different, challenging and unusual (in my business there may be a bit of that). However, there must be connections, common ground from which to work. My parents met when they were working in the same school (common context), and even though they may seem like night and day at times, they share many basic beliefs about human potential, and on many diverse touchstones that keep a strong connection. This gives strong roots so that the differences can still grow securely.

3. Disconnected, we fall

“I am a rock, I am an island” sang Simon and Garfunkel. While we find security in our own worthiness and abilities, humans are social creatures. Without others we may feel lonely, losing them may bring on anger or sadness, and a continued absence may be frustrating for us. We need them. I know that studies have been done that indicate that women are genetically wired to make emotional connections, to keep the family/clan together, but I feel that it is a gender-neutral issues. People who don’t connect meaningfully, may find themselves stuck in an empty space. You’ve possibly seen it in others – how are your connections doing?

4. Connection is just a word or thought away

I’m so fortunate to have many strong connections with my family and friends, as well as clients and acquaintances. What are some areas that pump up connections?

i. Looking for connections – I know that my life as a Canadian in Singapore would have been much more difficult if I had taken an ‘us’ and ‘them’ stance – looking for differences instead of celebrating similarities. Even if it starts with “Well, we’re both human (I think)”, it makes a space for common ground.
ii. Expecting the best, without expectations – I’m usually optimistic that people I meet with have a place in my life (because they ARE in my life) – sometimes it could be as brief as a single conversation or introducing me to someone else, they still have a role. If expectations stop there, it opens up a great space for relationships – a business partner may become a friend, a prospective partner may become a mentor or resource. By not slotting individuals into a ‘role’ early, it also stretches our minds to make even more meaningful connections.
iii. Open words – Malcolm Gladwell, in his new book “Blink” spoke of one rule that made improv comedy work – keeping possibilities and conversations open. By using ‘shutting down’ words – no, not, never – or their cousins – I don’t think so, unlikely, can’t – connections suffer. Are you shutting off an idea/connection/person before it comes to fruition? Your words have great power, watch them carefully.
iv. Time – We don’t feel we have enough of it, but with people we ‘share’ it instead of ‘spending’ it (which just makes it bigger). Making time to build connections has become more important to me (even if sometimes it doesn’t seem that way). When we do it, then all the other things on our list seem to fall into their real position – often at a much lower priority. Jesse Jackson said, “Your children need your presence more than your presents” – an especially important sentiment for parents spending extra hours to be able to buy the latest and greatest toys. We all need time with others to explore and learn – it is one of the most joyful and important parts of being human.
v. Forgiving others while maintaining self-worth – We all make mistakes and being flexible enough to allow others to goof up while keeping the connection takes a very strong sense of self. At the same time, there comes a point when the abuse of a relationship or lack of respect for others requires that the connection be disconnected. It is a fine line. Connections with others should bring you to a higher level in your life – if they are not, they may be misplaced.
vi. Being thankful – Always on my list – gratitude can really strengthen connections and keep an individual open to the realisation that we are blessed in our lives and the people that surround us. Thank you to all my connections – you make life wonderful for me.

Have a wonderful April. Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad.

Take care and all my best,
Jennifer

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