"Connections with other people affect not only the quality of our lives but also our survival." Dean Ornish

Connection, connectivity, connectedness - we're yearning, longing, desperate for it. Existing in places and spaces untethered to others brings us a distinct sense of loneliness and isolation. We reach out to grab hold of anything or anyone that we feel any semblance of connection to. The first person to smile at us, whoever says anything to us, or who looks familiar to us - whatever flimsy connection we have forged is the one we gravitate to when we're left floating in the ether. Every time we enter a new place, have to get our bearings, and ground ourselves, we are looking for connection to anchor us in the unfamiliar. It can be a comfort food, a scent that brings us fond memories, or a symbol that represents sanctuary for us. If all else fails, observational connectivity factors in, and we make comments about things we notice in hopes that someone else also paid attention. Even a minute shared experience is enough to strike up a conversation and build a connection. The ritual of seeking to establish oneself in a new place, which is a constant endeavor, can be fascinating to both participate in, and to observe. That self-awareness of it going on adds a meta layer to the process.

Awkwardness abounds, and awkwardness isn't as significant as we project it to be. Our experiences are real, at least for us. Our understandings of ourselves and our actions can vary greatly from those around us. Many of the cringe-worthy moments we terrorize ourselves with on an endless gag reel of our own creation are not even blips on the radars of the bystanders around us.  Embarrassment is a deceptive feeling. We vividly remember all the times we felt embarrassed, AND also struggle to recall even one time someone else had an embarrassing moment. People don't notice and/or care about our quirks, quips, and oddities as much as we imagine." Think for a second. Isn't it true? Maybe people aren't as concerned about how we're living or showing up as we think. Maybe we don't have to care so much. Maybe our fallibility is actually endearing to others and makes us more relatable. 

There is power in communicating how we're feeling or our own flaws. Moderate, operative word here, self-deprecation communicates self-knowledge, endears, and tells them others they can loosen up. Toxic self-deprecation articulates an unhealthy self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, and denial of self-worth. It's off-putting. Thin line between self-aware, and self-dismayed. We should be sharing our normalcy, and our highlights just as often as we do our flaws. People rarely find "woe is me" attitudes welcoming. We don't need toxic positivity, but realism to acknowledge personal truths, express gratitude, etc. is necessary.  

The secret to connection? It's about storytelling, authenticity, and vulnerability. People love genuine people. People remember specificity. People learn most efficiently through stories. When we have conversations with people we can move past the threshold by doing a little things that cement the connection. Using people's names casually in conversation is a callback greeting repeatedly that makes people feel good, and says that we know their name. Affirming body language with leaning in, making eye contact, head nodding, and even uh-huh grunts say that we're listening. Even better is pausing after others have finished speaking, summarizing what they said, and asking a deeper follow-up question that both showcases their effectiveness in communicating, and our attentiveness in understanding them. Asking meaningful questions, and availing ourselves to the answers is the most effective ways for us to make connections with others to us. On our side, sharing vulnerably, and appropriately is a powerful tool. 

Telling a clear story with a beginning, middle, and end, lesson or life experience wrapped in it, with our personality shining through (humor, charisma, intellect, etc.), and that is both detailed, and concise is a necessary life skill. If we can tell stories that share and not just tell people who we are, people will do well to remember us. Name names, describe where things happened, share how you felt as they went on, be funny, and be real. Talking around stories is worse than not using stories at all. Nobody cares that one time you went someplace and did something. We want to know about the time you and Robbie spent hours watching the now cancelled Paradise Hotel reality drama, talking about the utility and cultural significance of Spongebob memes, and ate original Twizzlers until sunrise. That's a story. That demonstrates who we are concretely. That's a story about us, told by us, in only the way that we can. 

We need to be purposeful in the storytelling that we do. Why are we telling said story? What do we want others to glean from it? How much detail should we share? What context is necessary to understand the story? If people ask about college I either say, it happened; or it was one of the best & worst times of my life; or that I made lifelong friends, found empowerment through social justice, and learned to love outside of my family while dealing with never feeling like I belonged, constant racial/xenophobic microaggressions & bias incidents, and being gaslight under oppression. Depending on the time we have together, our progression of our relationship, and the setting, we get to be decisive about how we share our stories.

It's a balance between expanding the depth of relationships by telling stories that help us know others, and not oversharing, or sharing heavy/traumatic things without having done the necessary work to support those truths. We need to brave in telling our stories but also cognizant in how others are receiving us. Read the room. When in doubt, we can just ask how people are experiencing, or if they are understanding us. Those meta moments where we zoom out and comment on how things are going can let us course correct in the moment. Sharing stories is our greatest asset in striving to forge meaningful connections with others. Use it, often, readily, and confidently. Reciprocate, and ask others to tell their stories in return. X

Questions for Connectivity:
What's the significance of your name?
What's your fondest memory from your childhood?
Tell me a quintessential "you" story?
What's the most impactful gift you've received, and why?
What is something that you have learned, and how do you use it in your life?
What are you an expert in or what are you passionate about?
How do you understand the world?
Why are you who you are? How did you come to be you?
When are you most yourself?


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