Please watch is two-minute clip before you read the article:

I define connection as the energy that exists between people
when they feel seen, heard, and valued;
when they can give and receive without judgment;
and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
~ Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

How would you like to improve your overall well-being without a monetary investment? Unlike most self-help advice blasting at you every day, I’m not going to badger you with the benefits of eating your veggies, getting enough sleep and exercising.

More than 100 years of research by neurologists, brain scientists and much of the medical profession has given the stamp of approval to the phenomenal benefits of establishing and nurturing strong social connections.

What are the extraordinary benefits of this wonder? Based on dozens of studies, here are just a few miraculous benefits of social connection.

Strong social connections…
…Strengthen our immune system.
…Help us recover from disease faster.
…Support us to recover from surgery quicker.
…Reduce anxiety and depression.
…Increase self-esteem.
…Make us more trusting and empathetic.
…Boost longevity by 50%. (Katherine Harmon, Scientific American.)
…Impact us positively on a genetic level. (Steve Cole, Professor of Medicine, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA School of Medicine.)

My breath is taken away by the possibilities.

In my many years of coaching and researching I have learned that we are hardwired biologically, physically, spiritually and cognitively to love, be loved and belong.

American psychologist Abraham Maslow stressed that our sense of connection is one of the basic human needs. He writes, “The great lesson is that the sacred is in the ordinary, which it is to be found in one's daily life, in one's neighbors, friends, and family, in one's backyard.”

Then, why is social connectedness diminishing at a shocking rate in the United States? April K. Clark, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Northern Illinois University writes, “The greatest fall has been in trust. This fall in trust is not due to the aging of the more civically minded World War II generation, as many scholars have argued, but due to differences in educational attainment, race, and religious preferences.”

Since social connection is a fundamental human need, one would think that connecting with others would be easy. Unfortunately not. We often unconsciously sabotage ourselves by going against our own self-interest because of FEAR. Fear can manipulate us with cynicism, competitiveness, shyness, arrogance and jealousy.

I will not focus on the “dark side” other than to say that a lack of social connectedness makes us more vulnerable to depression, anxiety, illness, antisocial behaviors and worse.

Here is great news: Evidence suggests that the life-enhancing effects of social support extend to giver as well as receiver. So, as a giver, you can make a major positive difference in the world and your life EVERY DAY.

WARNING: Facebook, Instagram, or any social connection has ZERO, NOTHING, NADA, to do with achieving social connectedness. Why? Because your sense of connection is internal. Period. If you “feel” connected at your deepest level, you automatically reap the benefits!

Dale Carnegie provides one of the keys to connectedness in How to Win Friends and Influence People. “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Research also shows that most people decide whether they like you within the first seven seconds of meeting you! Although this may sound a bit scary, you can use it to your advantage by preparing your mind and developing your skills.

Here are 11 tips to help you connect. ….

1. Be genuine and authentic. People have built-in phony detectors. Being authentic takes courage but the payoff is massive. Being genuine means that you MUST have a sincere interest in the person with whom you are trying to connect.

2. Be in the present. If you are thinking about being somewhere else or talking to another person, looking at your iPhone or ruminating about your problems of the day, connection with others is impossible. Check your self-talk.

3. Have a story to help you connect. Storytelling is the single most effective tool we have to connect with others. We are wired to learn and be inspired from a good story. Stories captivate and teach.

What is your story? How can you give insight to who you are and what you do? Your story should be clear, detailed and give others insight into you, your motivations, passion and beliefs. Show you care about others.

4. Find your courage. You have the choice to nurture an inner sense of connectedness or not. It just takes a little courage. Ask yourself this fear buster question; “What’s the worst that can happen and can I cope with it?” Of course, you can!

5. Pay extraordinary attention. “The eyes are the window to the soul” – quoted by William Shakespeare. When you pay attention, pay attention with your entire being. For the moment, make a person THE ONLY person in the room, so to speak. LISTEN with your whole being.

As a coach, my job is to build rapport in a very short period of time. So, ask questions. If I have the chance, I do a quick Google search on either a client or someone I know I’m going to meet. You will be surprised how helpful this is. Paying attention helps create rapport and creating rapport is a must for connecting.

6. Ask good questions. There is an old saying in the communication and coaching department: “The quality of the questions determine the quality of the answers.” You DON’T have to pry to the point of intrusion but you can do better than talk about the weather, sports or, heaven forbid, politics. Inquire. The social situation will often give you the first clue of how to connect.

7. Have the mindset to learn. Be open to learning. If you really pay attention, every single human being has something to teach us. If you have the intention to learn, you will discover the lessons others have to teach us on parenting, relationships, career, creativity, community and much, much more.

8. Look for the good. We are judgement machines. Our beliefs, biases, fears and cynicism can easily get in the way of connecting unless, we are proactive in our mindset. FOCUS on discovering reasons to like an individual and you will find them.

9. Show you care by providing exceptional help. Very few people think about helping the person or people they are connecting with. We are all human with similar challenges: health, career, mortality, finance, pleasure, learning and, of course, relationships.

My communication antennae are always in play, looking for ways to help people live an exceptional life. I may suggest sending an article I have written or have read. Perhaps I will ask a question to help clarify an issue, recommend a good book, or suggest he/she meets someone special. Or, I may just listen.

10. Keep current. This is one of my rules before venturing into any social situation. I listen to 15 minutes of the news, read the highlights of two or three newspapers. I also see recent popular movies and do my best to go to a Broadway show or local theater every two weeks. This gives me a solid basis to begin a conversation.

11. And other stuff. Most of what you will encounter on creating and maintaining social connection are the obvious and I will sum them up here: Smile and make eye contact. Use a person’s name. Be kind. Have open body language, keep things positive and, start with small talk.

I guarantee, if you apply these tips, it will help you make solid social connections and support you to live an exceptional life.


Author's Bio: 

James Mapes is an authority on the psychology of applied imagination, leadership and peak performance. For over three decades he has worked with hundreds of public and private companies in more than 70 countries and his program, “Journey into the Imagination” has been presented on Broadway and at Lincoln Center in Manhattan.
Companies, associations, universities and business schools including – IBM Corporate, U.S. Coast Guard, Lockheed and The Princeton Center for Leadership Training – have quoted Mapes in training manuals and textbooks.
James has created an on-going series of audio recordings and award-winner interactive VIDEO programs (Create Your Future; True Leadership) for the business community. His best-selling book, “Quantum Leap Thinking: An Owners’ Guide to the Mind” has been published in ten languages.
Mapes is the founder and President of The Quantum Leap Thinking™ Organization and the creator of the Transformational Coach™.

His newest programs are “MIND OVER BODY:” “IMAGINE THAT! Igniting your Brain for Creativity and Peak Performance,” “TRUE LEADERSHIP: The Neuroscience of Effective Leaders” & “MIND OVER BODY“ Harnessing a Vison for Wellness.”

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