Over the last 27 years since I started my consultancy, I've learned so much -- not just about business, but about helping people discover what motivates them, and how to lead happier, more fulfilled lives. Along with that, I've also learned a lot about what pushes their buttons.
In the wise words of Oprah, there is one thing I know for sure; people need to connect with people. Over the years, countless studies have determined that people suffer greatly when they cannot or choose not to make stable bonds in their lives. Depression, anxiety and other issues can result due to lack of social connections -- which can be profoundly affecting in numerous ways -- including an adverse effect on physical health.
On this business anniversary, I've been considering all of the ways to forge connections and deepen relationships -- both at work and at home. It starts with the way we communicate with one another. Keep in mind that you need to prioritize basic communication skills as well as to develop emotional intelligence and resilience. This means expanding your capacity to perceive, use, understand, and manage your emotions, as well as the emotions of others. My new book, Meaningful Alignment: Mastering Emotionally Intelligent Interactions at Work and in Life provides strategies to deal with these issues, offering insight into more productive conversations and healthier relationships, as a result.
Without mindful communication and the skill to handle difficult conversations, our social-cultural problems such as extreme political division, high divorce rates, intolerance of disagreement, lack of trust, rising mental health issues and lack of social connection will continue to prevail.
Here are 27 ways you can become more sociable, and communicate more effectively, through the lifeblood of connection.
1. Be open to possibilities and new ideas.
2. Being authentic means being vulnerable.
As scary as that is, it's the only way to truly connect with others you care for.
3. Show your interest in people.
As Dale Carnegie once said: "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."
4. Strive to be of service to others.
By this, I mean do what ever you can to help. Whether it's on a small or grand scale, there's always a way you can support people.
5. Put down the phone.
With devices in hand, we avoid human exchange, along with "real" relationships.
6. Busy is not enough.
Gauge the authenticity of your current social interactions. You can lead a "busy" life and yet experience feelings of loneliness.
7. Put aside judgment.
Keep an open mind. If you find yourself often judging situations and people, you are closing the door to potential social expansion.
8. Say, "yes" more often.
Do your best to get out to social events or pursue the things that interest you. Commit to saying yes to the activities that most invigorate you. Challenge yourself to try something new.
9. Create a social bucket list.
Consider this your "I've been meaning to do" list. For example, have you always wanted to take up ballroom dancing or join a cycling club? Alternatively, maybe you have been thinking about reaching out to an old friend whom you have lost touch with over the years. Strive to live larger.
10. Be mindful.
The benefits of living mindfully, with more awareness, are boundless. Mindfulness enables you to more easily identify your strengths and weaknesses, get a better handle on stress, and become more sensitive to the needs and emotions of others.
11. Step up.
Armed with the knowledge that healthy social integration is what the world needs now -- carry the torch. Do you know someone who could benefit from more social interaction? Reach out and try to bring people together. Start a walking group, a monthly movie night or other recurring social events.
12. Be a good neighbor.
Little things can have an immense impact. Help someone with the groceries; open the door for others; visit an elderly neighbor; give someone a compliment; smile more often; make eye contact a habit. Not only will you be making someone else's day, but you will also feel great about your efforts as well.
13. Stay positive.
There are many times in life when this becomes a monumental task, but we have to persist. Remember that we don't see life as it is; we see a version greatly affected by our hopes, dreams -- and fears. Marcus Aurelius said, "Life itself is but what you deem it."
14. Stop blaming.
If you focus on blaming others for your problems, you are refusing to take responsibility for changing or growing as a person, and some people may be apprehensive to make a connection with you.
15. Don't oversimplify.
If you keep going back to past incidents with people or friends that negatively affect you, you'll get "stuck" in judgment. One occurrence does not mean a life sentence.
16. Quiet the 'what ifs.'
Focus instead on what is. If you are caught in a trap of worry about the future of a relationship, you certainly cannot live in the present moment -- or enjoy the company of another.
17. Stop disbelieving encouragement.
Don't trivialize your wins or other peoples' praises by distrusting the good things that people say to you -- or about you. Take time to celebrate the moment -- even if it's for a few breaths of gratitude.
18. Avoid predicting the future.
Particularly if you always expect the worst. Try substituting internal statements such as "they aren't going to like me" or "they're just being nice to me because they feel they have to" with statements like "it's entirely possible that I can forge new friendships with this person (or group.)" It may feel strange to you at first, but persistence pays off.
19. A bad day is not a catastrophe.
Just because you experienced a slew of unfortunate events does not necessarily mean you can't get through them -- or that things will always be this difficult. An argument with a friend or spouse is not pleasant -- but it may be a sign that you need to clear the air. If you default to catastrophic thinking, you will sabotage friendships, repel new acquaintances and stunt the growth of your existing relationships.
20. Mind the mind reading.
Do not assume you know and see all. How do you know what people are thinking without evidence of their thoughts?
21. Forgive someone.
One way to solidify relationships and carry significantly less stress is to consider forgiveness. The act of forgiving someone that has hurt or disappointed you can heal you in myriad ways. Ask yourself if you are holding onto resentment or a grudge and work on letting it go. Forgiveness is an "inside job" that has many ancillary benefits such as inner peace, better relationships, a more positive outlook and enhanced physical health.
22. Make amends.
As meaningful as letting go and forgiving another is, the act of asking for forgiveness can be just as liberating. Make a plan for what you wish to say -- but be sure to make your apology authentic and sincere. Also, be prepared for the fact that the person you have wronged may not be receptive to your apology. You can't force anyone to grant you forgiveness. However, if you have apologized and sincerely tried to make amends, you also have to be willing to let it go, and move on.
23. Take care -- of you.
There are boundless opportunities for authentic connections with others if you make self-care and personal growth a priority. If you take good care of yourself, you will have more energy and emotional resilience in your interactions with people. Taking care of yourself -- from the inside out -- does not necessarily require financial an obligation, but it does require a commitment to yourself to take good care of your body, mind and spirit.
24. Practice active listening.
Most people tend to think about what they want to say next while someone else is speaking, thereby breaking the chain of meaningful conversation. When you listen actively and mindfully, communication is more authentic and productive.
25. Ask thoughtful questions.
One way to keep a conversation flowing is to ask more questions. It also takes the pressure off you when trying to gather your thoughts. Be more inquisitive and watch the magic happen.
26. Be aware of non-verbal signals.
Your body language might be conveying a message without you being cognizant of how it appears. Avoiding eye contact and crossing your arms are "no-no's" that can distract, and dampen the flow of dialogue. Consider your facial expressions, hand gestures, posture and tone of your voice, as well. Also, keep in mind that checking your phone during a conversation is just plain rude. (Sometimes work, or personal issues necessitate rare exceptions to this rule. If you are expecting a call that cannot be rescheduled, be sure to inform the person ahead of time that you may have to take it.)
27. Don't worry, be happy anyway.
When the going gets tough, the tough get more engaged. Talk to a friend, or a professional if you can't seem to get through a difficulty. Above all, do your best to have fun, laugh more, and be kind. As my mother always said, "this too shall pass."