How to Connect with OthersBy Dr. Margaret Paul
November 28, 2011
Are you mystified about how to create meaningful emotional connection with others?
We are inherently social beings, and feeling emotionally connected with another is one of the great joys in life. Yet, all too often, we feel lonely around another or others, wanting to connect and not knowing how. We may have learned numerous dysfunctional or unsatisfying ways of connecting, and wonder why we still feel lonely around someone when we are trying so hard to connect.
Emotional connection is an experience of the heart, not of the head. While you may feel a certain kind of connection when you are in your head, this form of connection may leave you feeling unsatisfied.
Do you try to create connection by:
- Storytelling about things that don’t relate to the person you are talking to
- Going on and on about yourself
- Discussing details about mundane subjects
- Discussing superficial topics, such as the weather
- Complaining, whining
- Attacking, blaming
- Interrogating – asking combative questions
- Pulling for attention in various other ways
Satisfying emotional connection occurs when you talk and act from your heart, such as when you:
- Listen attentively and empathically
- Ask kind questions about meaningful things
- Speak your truth from your heart
- Let the other in on your learning and healing process
- Share in a creative process
- Do fun things together, laugh together
- Do kind and caring things for each other
- Want to understand, when things may be difficult between you and another person - stay open to learning with them, even when it is challenging
- Support each other in things that are important to each of you
- Experience joy for another’s joy and pain for their pain
- Show caring for the other’s feelings
- Care about how your words and behavior affect the other person
I find that I can engage in many of these behaviors even in more casual encounters, such as when I’m at a social gathering. There is a huge difference for me between talking about the weather or complaining about something, and being truly interested in another person. Being aware of whether I’m coming from my head or my heart is what makes all the difference between a superficial connection and a meaningful connection.
I grew up hearing, “Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve.” The message was, “Protect yourself from getting hurt, by staying in your head. If you share your heart with people, you will get hurt.” I learned this lesson so well that I ended up being completely disconnected from my body and my feelings, wondering why I could never feel connected with anyone.
Staying in my head disconnected me from my own heart and soul, and disconnected me from others’ hearts and souls. In order to reconnect with myself and my own truth and feelings, and feel the joy of connection with others, I needed to be willing to feel the deep loneliness of disconnection – which I had staved off my whole life. I also needed to be willing to feel the loneliness and heartache of experiencing others’ unwillingness to come from their open hearts.
I’d far rather experience the loneliness and heartache of experiencing others not connecting with me, than the emptiness and aloneness of my own disconnection from myself. It’s only in staying connected with my own feelings that I can experience the joy of connection with another, when that person is open hearted. The joy of connection with another is so fulfilling that I’m willing to risk getting hurt if they are closed to connection with me. The joy far outweighs the pain that might occur, when I come from my heart rather than my head.
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Today, notice what you do when pain comes up - especially the pain of loneliness and heartache when someone is being unloving with you. Do you get irritated, angry or judgmental? Do you resist or withdraw? Do you people-please and give yourself up? Do you numb out with food or other substances, or with activities such as TV? Notice the ways you might be avoiding your feelings rather than compassionately attending to them.
By Dr. Margaret Paul