The better your relationships, the happier your life will be. When scientists studied the top 10% of ‘very happy’ people, they were the ones who spend the least time alone and the most time socialising.
To create wonderful relationships, you need to brush up on your ‘connection’ skills. I have been coaching for ten years now and before that was a journalist so have spent years watching and listening to those who do and do not connect with others well. I have noticed that people who connect beautifully have three specific skills and attributes: listening, acknowledgement and being authentic.
People who connect with others brilliantly, listen the most. Dale Carnegie wrote the cult classic How to Win Friends and Influence People (Vermillion, £7.99)and shared an anecdote about how he sat next to a scientist at an event and Carnegie just kept asking him questions and got the scientist to open up. When there was a lull in conversation, Carnegie would ask another question. At the end of the event, the scientist went up to his host and proclaimed that Carnegie was the most interesting man he’d ever met! “You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. Which is just another way of saying that the way to make a friend is to be one,” says Carnegie.
Another powerful way to connect to others is to acknowledge who they are versus what they do. If you listen for and point out the special gifts, traits or talents of another person, you can affect someone in an incredibly positive way. Praising what someone has done is good but that can often make people feel they have to ‘do’ to be valuable in the world. When someone point out what is great about you, it immediately lowers those ‘I’m not good enough’ defences. It’s also great for you because when you are constantly focussing and looking for what is good about someone versus bad, it makes you a wonderful person to be around and someone everyone wants to connect to. Think about the most judgemental people you know. Do you really want to spend a lot of time with them?
Lastly, be authentic – tell the truth about yourself. There is nothing so attractive as someone who is comfortable in their own skin with nothing to prove. When you are
self-secure, others feel safe around you. When you accept your humanness, faults as well talents, then others feel they can drop their facades and connect on a deeper level. People ‘get’ when you’re not trying to prove anything to yourself or others.
I remember being terrified when I first became a mum because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I daren’t join any of the mum’s groups because I was terrified they would spot me as ‘fake mum’. Instead, I told everyone I was fine, pureed lots of organic vegetables, wore lots of make-up to hide my sleep deprived pallor and felt
disconnected and lonely.
Finally, I joined a mother and toddler’s group and Sally, a mum of twin boys spotted me immediately, threw my organic mush in the bin and gave me a cup of tea. “It’s Ok,” she said. “None of us know what we’re doing. It’s tough but if you keep asking for help, you’ll be OK.” That was the best advice I’d ever had because it came from someone who was not pretending in anyway. She found motherhood tough but everyone loved her for admitting it.
When you can be truly honest about your challenges as well as your successes, when you can acknowledge others for who they are versus what they do and by really listening to others, you will feel supported, loved and respected for who you really are. And the scientists are right, that makes you feel really happy.
Five ways to be a great listener.
1/Give 100% of your attention. Switch off your mobile phone and tune out other
2/Don’t interrupt – keep your opinions to yourself and even if asked for your opinion, just ask another question.
3/Ask open questions that get people to open up E.g. How did that make you feel?
What do you think the real problem is here? What do you think is the solution?
4/Read between the lines. Notice the whole picture, not just the words being said
– what are the body language/facial expression saying?
5/Reflect back what they have said so you they know that they have heard you. Summarise and restate. “You’re saying you love your job but you’re unsure about where you stand with your boss.”
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