My Year of More Connection

2018. My one vision for all of us is this. Let’s make this The Year of More Connection.

Well, yes. Duh. Of course, right?

Two seminal articles appeared in 2017 that captured the urgency of our need to connect. They encapsulated a simmering Zeitgeist.Their messages reverberated beyond their intended target audiences and instantly went global.

Journalist Billy Baker penned a piece for The Boston Globe with the header “The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness.” (Boston Globe, March 9, 2017). As men compartmentalize their lives into work and family life, Baker describes, and the pressures that invariably come with each, they disconnect from intimate friendships. Loneliness takes root. Baker’s insights echo some of the conversations that happen in my C-Suite Mastermind Groups. Yes, loneliness.

Vice Admiral Dr. Vivek Murtha, who served as the 19th US Surgeon General from 2014-2017, authored the September 2017 Harvard Business Review cover story titled “Work and the Loneliness Epidemic.” Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity, Murtha writes in his article. But we haven’t focused nearly as much effort on strengthening connections between people as we have on curbing tobacco use or obesity.

At work, Murtha asserts, loneliness reduces task performance, limits creativity, and impairs other aspects of executive function such as reasoning and decision making. Over 50% of all CEOs report feeling lonely in their roles. Yes, alarming.

Loneliness. It’s almost like a dirty word, isn’t it? The one feeling we don’t want to cop to having, the one state of being that could be perceived as a core character flaw.

Lonely at work?

When Murtha was Surgeon General, he instituted a practice he calls “Inside Scoop,” an exercise in which team members were asked to share something about themselves through pictures for five minutes during weekly staff meetings. Presenting was an opportunity for each of us to share more of who we were, Murtha explains. Listening was an opportunity to recognize our colleagues in the way they wished to be seen.

“Inside Scoop” quickly energized every meeting. I am not surprised. A small institutionalized antidote to a potentially isolating workplace. Here are my Top 7 personal behaviors that will help you to curb loneliness and create more meaningful connection, in both formal and informal situations, with absolutely anyone:

  1. Express heartfelt gratitude

We long to be seen and heard. That’s the essence of “Inside Scoop,” isn’t it? And we love to be acknowledged for our work and creativity. Not with platitudes and clichés. No, with heartfelt appreciation. When I know that you mean it, I will move mountains for you.

  1. Show emotion

When you let me know what stirs you, I will be stirred by you. And I want to be stirred by you. So show me.

  1. Shift out of neutral

When you stay in neutral I experience you as nice, pleasant, likable – and I will not terribly much care. Shift out of neutral by owning your point of view. State it – and allow me to have a different point of view. Now we’re talking!

  1. Take a social risk

Show more of what you normally don’t show. Surprise me with what I don’t yet know about you. Inside-scoop-me. It will allow me to do the same. Our connection will get real.

  1. Cultivate your light touch

Playfulness fosters a sense of joy. Heavy-handedness doesn’t. In all situations, find a way of communicating with a light touch. I will so look forward to engaging with you.

  1. Give energy

There are energy-givers and there are energy-takers.  Be an energy-giver. Energize yourself daily. Use energizing language. Meet me with enthusiasm. The alternative isn’t pretty – and it’s an instant connection-killer.

  1. Show up

When you are with me, BE WITH ME. Not in the phone call that happened an hour ago. Not in the meeting that is about to come. Be fully here, in this room, in this moment, in the flow of things, with me. The rest will take care of itself.

Connection is a daily choice. Heed the alarms. Choose connection.

The rest will take care of itself.

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy: The Etiquette of Business Hugs