Living in ConnectionI recently returned from a whirlwind vacation in Slovenia and Croatia, where my husband Thom and I not only had a terrific adventure, but also where the experience of living in connection was palpable. In the above picture I was having one of our daily Cappuccino’s at a riverfront cafe in Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia. Not only are their coffees terrific there, but most special was being immersed in a culture which seems to embrace connection. People there routinely sit outside together, young and old, regardless of the weather, enjoying coffees, wine, sweets, meals and good old conversation all day and night! We hardly saw anyone on their cellphones, ignoring the humans in their midst the way we routinely do in the USA. We were struck by how friendly and happy the people there seemed, and not just the tourists who were enjoying a vacation. We returned to the States convinced in a new way that the experience of daily human connection and personal happiness are intertwined. So, when you’re not on vacation in a friendly spot what can you do in your daily life to promote connection?
- Be intentional about engagement when you’re with other people. Maintain eye contact, listen, share, and most importantly, don’t confuse cellphone use with human socialization unless you’re sharing photos or anecdotes, and it’s not a solo, isolating activity.
- Take time each day to find people and places where you can have some meaningful conversation – whether it’s at the cooler, at lunch on a walk, or after work at a restaurant. If you’re a stay- at- home Mom join a mother’s group or a gym where you can find connection.
- Create small pockets of connection with your partner if you lack big expanses of time. Get away from an”all or nothing” frame. Share a glass of wine while cooking dinner, sit together and talk about the TV program you’re watching, share news about your day over dinner or walking the dog together. Plan your weekend and create something to look forward to.
- Use technology to let the people you care about know you’re thinking about them, then make a date. Don’t use technology as a substitute for the real thing, creating pseudo intimacy. Reach out and do stuff with the people you value.
- When you’ve experienced conflict in a relationship, (as you inevitably will in most normal relationships), don’t let it stew – instead, address it in whatever way the relationship will sustain, so it doesn’t become a barrier to connection. (The exception to this would be relationships which feel abusive, then boundaries are your best resource).
- When you’re alone find moments of connection with strangers who feel safe to you – talk with the supermarket clerk, start a conversation with the person next to you at a bar or restaurant, compare dog stories with other dog walkers. Engage!