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Connecting With Others/Connecting With Ourselves

Recently, BlackBerry owners discovered that their devices didn’t work for a few hours. In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle some owners described how this break in service gave them a sense of freedom. One woman described how she was able to go on her coffee break without taking her handset with her. "It’s a little freeing not having to worry about the leash around your neck.” Others experienced discomfort. UC Berkeley professor Jeff Nunberg comments, "The more connected you are, the more you’re terrified of missing something, and some people can’t deal with the anxiety."*

I find it ironic that in our pursuit to stay connected, we may have actually lost a feeling of connection with others and with ourselves. Many people are fearful to be away from their email or cell phone for too long. They may miss something important. What is that "important thing" that we may miss? Is it really true that we cannot give ourselves 15 minutes for a coffee break, or an hour to go to the gym, or out to dinner with our partner without being tethered to our BlackBerry? In most cases, if it is something truly important, it can wait an hour or two or even overnight.

When our electronic communication devices are fully operational, what we may be missing instead are moments to be with ourselves to reflect, to observe what is around us, and to perhaps enjoy a conversation where we can truly connect with another. Then when we check our messages we feel refreshed and able to focus our attention more clearly.

One of my coaching clients said his day was so busy he couldn’t imagine taking ten minutes for himself for a break. He felt that he would be letting people down if he weren’t working every minute of the day. He was afraid that he would get even further behind in his work. Many people feel this way. I suggested that when he was feeling frantic and spinning his wheels to get up and look out the window for a minute or two. After he was able to do that once or twice a day, he then started walking around the block for five minutes. He discovered that he didn’t get further behind in his work but rather he was more productive. Instead of becoming overwhelmed, he stopped himself by taking a break. He then would return to his work more focused.

He was connecting with himself, which allowed him to connect with others. He was able to be more present for his team because his mind was clearer. He found that by giving himself moments for reflection he was making better decisions. By loosening the tether with his staff, he was allowing them to make decisions and ask each other questions without being so tied to him. This turned out to be freeing for him and his staff.

How can you connect more with others and with yourself? Try reflecting on the following self-observation questions.

Listen to yourself and others with all of your senses:

What do you hear? What is not being said?
What do you see?
What do you feel as you listen?
What emotions arise for you?
What do you smell and taste? (these answers may be metaphorical)

Observe when you feel most connected with others.

I notice that I feel most connected with others when I feel truly heard. How do I know when I am being truly heard? My body is relaxed, I see that the other person’s attention is on me and my attention is on that person, I feel curious about that person and s/he is curious about me and there is reciprocity in our relationship. These are just some of the ways I notice a feeling of connection with others.

By paying attention to when we feel most connected with others and how we listen, we can move toward creating more meaningful connections in our lives. Perhaps one way to feel more connected is to step away from our computers and Blackberry’s for at least moments each day. Then we can look around, breathe fully, take a walk, and notice the buds coming out on the trees –connecting with the world around and in us.

To explore more fully this topic, attend the workshop, Connecting With Others/Connecting With Ourselves.

*Article in San Francisco Chronicle by Ryan Kim, February 13, 2008, p A2.

© Sue Schleifer, 2008

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