Connecting with OTHER PEOPLE
We are not born into this world alone. Our birth is celebrated by our families.
We are welcomed into the arms of those who have loved us even before our appearance on this bright blue planet.
And as we go through life, our connection with friends and families brings us joy, encouragement, and laughter.
Though sometimes, we may struggle with relationships, and occasionally we may feel pain, the sweetest moments in our lives find us surrounded by those we love. Let us not distance ourselves from this joyful connection in an effort to minimize our exposure to the possibility of pain. For if we do, we allow ourselves to miss some of the sweetest things life has to offer. Yes, life is full of emotional risk. But staying open and vulnerable insures that the richest of treasures can come to us. And those treasures are the people that we love.
Becoming Aware of Others
Being fully present with other people is something we have a tendency to slip in and out of. How often do you think about what you want to say next while someone else is speaking? When you do this, you are not fully engaged. You are half in the moment and half in your head.
No worries. Being present takes practice. Our attention tends to drift. Sometimes, I find myself getting excited about the content of a conversation and I have something that I want to share. So, I sit there thinking of what I want to say while the other person is speaking. When I do this, I miss not just part what they are saying, but some other important information as well.
When you really engage in listening, several cool things happen. ONE: You hear what the person is actually saying. You might actually learn something new. That is always a good thing! The something new might be new academic information, or it might be new information about the person—like how many children they have or what their favorite food is. TWO: You can tap into how the person is feeling about the topic of discussion. This is really important, because it helps you get to know the person better. Most of the time, we are functioning in our own emotions and not very aware of how other people are feeling. Try to let go of your emotions. Step outside yourself. Really FOCUS on the other person’s tone of voice, the strength of the words they are using, and their body language. You will be amazed at how much insight comes to you quickly about the person who is talking.
Here is a great example of active listening that I am pretty sure you will identify with. It’s a pretty powerful example and may really make you think. What is your favorite TV series or movie? When you watch something you are very interested in, you fully engage in that experience. In fact, you can become so involved in it that you lose a sense of where you are. The story unfolding in front of you becomes your reality for a brief time. You feel the emotions of the people on the screen. You react with your body to the action. You might jump back when something surprising happens or you might laugh out loud (I know you do this even when you are looking at pet videos).
Now try to imagine being THAT involved in a conversation. It does happen sometimes. You occasionally are fully engaged and you laugh out loud or find yourself cringing or tearing up. Connecting with people in this manner is powerful. When you are fully aware/present in the conversation, important connections are made. You will tend to remember more of the content of the discussion later. But more importantly, an energetic connection is created. You will notice that the way you feel changes. When you leave, you will still be able to feel that energy. It will hang around for a while, depending on how deeply you connected.
Sometimes that is a good thing because you are creating a new friendship or deepening a relationship.
Sometimes, it is not something you want at all.
The flip side, and just as important part, of being actively aware/ fully present with people, is catching red flags. It makes me sad that we even have to talk about this. I very much wish we lived in a world where we could be carefree and open with everyone. Unfortunately, we can’t.
The truth is, as you become more aware of other people, you will be more quickly and easily alerted to any red flags. This will protect you. Seeing warning signs that someone may have some issues you need to be careful of doesn’t mean that you should avoid any connection with that person. It just means to remain aware and wait. Take your time putting your trust in someone when something doesn’t sit right with you.
I tend to be a very open, trusting person. I throw my heart out there very quickly and have gotten myself into some unpleasant situations because of this. Taking time to sit back and be more careful could have easily prevented some of my pain. I very much wish the prevention of pain for you. Learning how to sit back a little and really listen is an invaluable skill to have. It will guide you more surely into relationships that are healthy, increase your compassion for the people around you, and prevent you from experiencing unnecessary pain and suffering.
"True listening requires a setting aside of one's self"
This Ted Talk is a really great couple of minutes that will help you have great, connected, and satisfying conversations with people. Today's Activity is to grab a note book and pen or pencil because you are going to get 10 tips for having a great conversation in this video. Write them down so you can refer to them later. You will need about 15 minutes to do this activity. So find a quiet spot and plug in to what award-winning journalist, author, and speaker, Celeste Headlee has to say.
Now, after you listen to this video, go back over the ten things you wrote down and pick one or two that really resonated with you, or you feel like you could really work on. Circle them or write them in fancy writing or draw pictures around them. Sit and think about them for a minute and picture how you can incorporate them into your every day conversations.
Add to Your Daily Routine
Practice the conversation tips you decided to work on every day.
This is so easy to do. I find my friends all through Central America and Mexico are very open with their opinions (both positive and negative) They easily give positive feedback, praise, and encouragement. It is SUCH a nice thing to hear someone say something NICE to you!
According to Harvard, Happy Brain Science, and other scientific institutions, the magic ration of how many positive things you need to hear to make up for each negative one is 5 to 1. That’s five positive things for each negative one. I don’t know why we have a tendency to hang on to negative feedback, but we do. It is so easy to say something encouraging to someone. It doesn’t have to be anything big. A quick comment like, “You have a nice smile,” or “I like your earrings” can really go a long way!
There is another perk to this one. It’s called The Law of Attraction or Karma or the Golden Rule. What you give out comes back to you! So, several things will happen as you begin to make it a HABIT of encouraging people. 1. They will feel good. 2. You make a connection with them. 3. Other people will start complimenting YOU!
Encourage someone. You can send a text or message someone. You can pick up the phone and call. You can even say something nice to a total stranger.
Add to Your Daily Routine
The more often you take time to say a little something positive, the more it will become a habit—and it’s a great one to have. Look for opportunities during the day and, if you don’t find one, make one. It only takes a minute and the compounded results will blow your socks off!
Talk to Strangers
I confess, I have ALWAYS liked talking to total strangers. My children used to be mortified when I randomly started talking to the guy in line behind me at the grocery store (They do it themselves, now)
I am a great fit for the culture of Mexico and Central America. People are very open here. You go to the fruit and veggie market and an old lady tells you how to prepare some green yummy thing you’ve never seen before. You stop to smell the flowers on a wild vine and an old man stops and tells you that the flowers make a great herbal tea. I LOVE the way people connect here. It makes you feel like you are part of an extended family that you may not have met, but they all love you anyway.
Not to mention the fact that I learn a lot about the culture and people here every single day.
But recently, I found out that talking to strangers doesn’t jut make ME happy. I watched a TED talk about a woman scientist who did a long and in-depth study to discover what the key factors were in predicting markers for a long life. She looked at everything from not drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes to keeping your cholesterol low and getting a healthy amount of daily exercise. But the thing that TOPPED the charts as far as fore-telling which people would live the longest was completely unexpected.
Number ONE on the list of things you can do to insure a long healthy life is TALK TO STRANGERS!
Number two was talk to people you know. (How weird is that, right? You would think that would be number one) But number one was to get out every day and connect with random people.
You see, we were designed for connection. It is written into our DNA. We are born into families. We are made to have the energy of other people around us frequently. And when that is lacking, we start down a long and slippery slope.
It’s a slope into depression and anxiety, illness and eventually death.
I know that may seem extreme, but the facts prove it. Simply BEING around people is the number one most powerful thing you can do to live a long and happy life.
Yes, you may be an introvert. Or maybe you have spent so much time on-line that you now have to stay inside because it is too people out there…. But you still have a basic need to be around other people. You don’t even have to know them.
Humans are beings of energy. We share that energy when we are in close proximity to other humans. If we don’t get that infusion of shared energy, eventually we become depleted. And that depletion manifests itself in all sorts of unpleasant ways.
You know, you can go to Target. Get a shopping cart and just wander around the store for an hour. Maybe buy something small, or nothing at all. But just being NEAR other people will help build your energy reserves back up again. Try going to a coffee shop with a book or a bookstore with a cup of coffee. Just get out of your house and go to where there are other humans. And then, ideally, talk to some of them. You might just ask someone where the bathroom is, or what new books they suggest, or how much a cup of coffee is. OR…you might find yourself getting into an actual conversation (Like I do…all the time)
The point is to make the connection.
Say something (anything) to a stranger. If you are home all day, go outside. Drive to the corner store. Put your phone away. Look people in the eye. It can be uncomfortable at first, but you will get better at it. You may never LOVE talking to strangers, but you will start to make those simple, short, everyday connections. You will be surprised at how big of a difference they can make. AND you might just end up making some new friends!
Add to Your Daily Routine
Make a commitment to yourself to connect with people (the 7-11, the gas station, the post office) every day.
Pick up the Phone
WE LIVE IN A WORLD that has become very disconnected. Despite cell phones, Wi-Fi, FB, Instagram, Messenger, texting, and all the fancy new ways we use to communicate, we are communicating on a much shallower level than we are meant to. Ideally, we should be in physical contact with the people we love every day. We should be sharing lunches, chatting, laughing, and hanging out on the doorstep, watching the world go by.
The people of Middle America put family and friends at the center of everything they do. They make time to spend together. Their work schedules allow for long lunches that they can spend with friends. They go out to eat and sit for hours chatting and enjoying each other’s company. In fact, it is considered very rude for a waiter to bring you the check if you have not specifically asked for it. Time spent socializing is at the core of community and it is almost revered as a basic human right.
Research done on exploring happiness and longevity shows that living in close knit communities with extended family and lots of friends lengthens life spans and increases overall satisfaction in daily living. You may have many friends, but how often do you see them? Messaging is not the same. You end up feeling like you are living in some strange silent world where all you hear is the sound of typing instead of the sound of the human voice. This leads to feeling isolated, anxious, and depressed.
Now, I understand that maybe you have a busy schedule with work and kids. Getting together with friends and family can feel easier said than done. Well, the next best thing is to pick up the phone. You really do need to hear the sound of someone’s voice. You need the vibrations of laughter and tears and excitement and compassion to reach your ears so you can take it in and allow the healing power of simple, tangible human connection to take place.
I saw a funny cartoon the other day. It was an adorable dog laying on the floor, paws in the air, looking completely panicked with its eyes so wide open they were almost falling out of its head.
The caption said, “This is me when I send someone an instant message….. and they call me back!”
I hate to say this, but for some of you, today’s challenge might make you feel like that panicked puppy. If that is you, really take some time to ask yourself why it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Pick up the phone and call someone. =)
Add to Your Daily Routine
Make SURE you TALK to another human being every single day. If you have people around and chat face to face, that is even better than calling someone. But if you don’t pick up the phone, or facetime, or skype, or any other way you like to connect with people. It’s crazy isn’t it, that in an age when we can video chat with people, talk to them face to face from opposite sides of the world, we isolate ourselves and CHOOSE to be alone.
Be Open About How You Feel
I saw a friend here in Mexico the other day and, as is my usual, I asked, “How are you today?”
Now back home (The US for me) This was a question that always had the same answer, “Fine.”
There was no expectation that the question-ee would actually tell you how they really were. It was simply a formality with a rehearsed question and a practiced response. In fact, if the person responding (with FINE) was very NOT fine, they would steel themselves as to not show any emotion and there-by inconvenience the questioner.
After a while, I found the whole ritual to be very shallow and I started changing my answers to things that were meant to be a bit funny but also gently address the idea that maybe we should be more open with our friends and acquaintances about how we are really feeling.
Well, the other day, I asked my Mexican friend, “How are you?” and the answer I got was prompt, heart-felt, and honest. “I’m terrible.” I stopped what I was doing immediately and asked why. The explanation was simple and short. There was nothing I could do but offer my compassion and listen. But really, the few minutes it took to do that lifted my friend’s spirits and helped me understand them a little better.
So, a couple of days later, I decided to try it myself. Not saying the prescribed, “fine,” that is…
I had gotten news that a dear friend was ill and I was heart-broken. I walked into one of my favorite gringo hang-outs here in Puerto Morelos and was greeted by one of the guys who works there. He is a nice guy from the Mexican state of Chiapas. He speaks Spanish and English and his local dialect and he is at the beach working because he can make more money there than he can in his small pueblo.
So when he greeted me with, “Hola, how are you?” I just told him, “Not so good.” He was not taken back at all, but rather got a concerned look on his face and asked why. I told him my friend was sick and I was sad. He didn’t offer any advice. He just listened and then said, “Lo siento,” which is loosely translated as I’m sorry, but really means, I’m feeling it.
It made me smile. And then he smiled. And I felt the connection of having shared my burden with someone and having then make it a little lighter. He waved, and I went on my way.
Note to self: Be honest about how you are feeling.
Decide right now that the next time someone asks how you are, you are going to say something other than, “Fine.” If you feel great, then say you feel great. If you are tired, say you are tired. If you are hungry, say you are hungry. Just be short and simple and tell the truth.
Oh, and by the way…How are you?
Add to your Daily Routine
Make it a habit to say how you are really feeling. It can be short and simple. Don’t expect anyone to have answers for you if you are struggling with something, although they might offer some. It isn’t about fixing anything, it is just about not carrying it alone. You will be surprised how you start to FEEL more connected, less alone. It really is OK to be yourself and be honest. It is really the only way you can authentically connect with people.
Here in Mexico and all through Central America, team work is almost a sacred thing. I see guys (even older, well educated men) get really excited when they get their uniform shirts for anything from a tennis match to a sailing team (I am part of that!). They put a LOT of emphasis on working together and playing together and they do it with a “team” mindset.
I have two quick examples. ONE: There is a really cool movie called The WEEKEND SAILOR that is a true story about the first around-the-world sailing regatta. The race was proposed and sponsored by the country of England with its mighty navy. Each country could enter a ship and sailing team. Everyone thought England would win, or possibly France with their sleek ships and extensive nautical experience.
When Mexico entered the race, they were almost laughed out of town. Especially when people found out the captain was a guy who sailed with his family on the weekends and the crew included his wife, his seventeen-year-old son, and his gardener.
It was an intense race. Storms raged, huge waves threatened the ships, and several crew members were lost over board, never to be seen again. And while the English team was sending in fresh crew members at every stop and calling everyone to attention on deck, the Mexican captain was serving tequila to his family. =)
And guess who won?
In the end, after long arduous battles against a wild ocean, freezing temperatures and exhaustion, it was the way the Mexican family worked together, caring and supporting each other, truly without any ego, but with each other’s highest good in mind, that ultimately won the race.
It’s a great movie, and a wonderful example of team work. If you get time, you should watch it. Its available on-line. “The Weekend Sailor”
The other example is one that I observed personally.
A dear friend of mine was in a golf tournament similar to the Ryder Cup. There were two teams, Team Mexico and Team USA. Thirty-two players on each team split into eight groups of four, two Mexicans and two Americans each. (For those of you who are not familiar with golf, typically they play in groups four people per hole)
The Mexican team won and everyone had a great time. After the game, I sat at a table during the reception with my friend and the other Mexican guy he played with. I don’t remember the name of the Mexican guy who played with my friend, so let’s just call him, George. As we sat talking about the game George piped up and said, “I was not even thinking about winning the game. All I was thinking about was what I could do to help my partner.”
It was an enlightening moment for me. The USA (Where I am from) is typically very goal oriented. Of course, if I were playing a game I would be thinking about winning. My mind set would tell me that winning was the whole point! But the people in Mexico are not motivated by goals. They are focused on relationships. PEOPLE are more important to them than anything else in life. EVERYTHING is about friends and family. The way that manifested in this case was a younger golfer (George) working hard to be of any help he could to an older golfer (my friend, who is in his 50’s and an excellent golfer, by the way). How do you play a game and not think about winning?
I think this is really important and something to try and really grasp. When you help your mom do dishes after a Thanksgiving meal, you are not trying to win. You are focused on being helpful to your mother. This is the same kind of mind-set George had when he played in that very important golf tournament. And they won! How can we apply that to our every-day lives? How can we collaborate on things and do it with an authentic motivation to simply help each other the best that we can?
You are going to need to enlist the help of a friend or family member for this one.
Get some paper and a couple of pencils and find a place where you can comfortable sit and draw together. A table is probably best. You can even add colored pencils or crayons or markers to make it more fun.
You are going to draw a picture of a house with a tree and a flower and a sun and some clouds and a car in the driveway and some people doing whatever you want them to do.
The trick is, you have to draw it together.
As you make your plan about how to do this, do NOT think about what the end result will be. The goal is NOT to draw a great picture. The goal is to HELP each other do the best drawing that you can. Chances are, one of you is going to be better at drawing than the other. If your goal were simply to draw a great picture, then the better artist would draw the most difficult things. But that is NOT the goal here. The better artist should allow the not so great artist to draw complicated things, but don’t just let them do it alone, teach them HOW to do a better drawing.
As you are working on this, it is super important to have fun. Being goal oriented (which you probably naturally are) will make you have a tendency to focus on the outcome of the final picture. You might find yourself feeling frustrated because your partner is not drawing the way you would like them to. NOTICE that frustration and, when you do, attempt to re-focus. Put your attention on the PERSON, not the drawing.
This may be really different for you. That is GREAT! It means you are learning a different way to see things.
As you work together, focus on making this fun for each other. (You can even serve tequila like the sailboat captain if you wish!) Focus on helping each other learn. Focus on encouraging each other. Your GOAL is to do whatever you can to benefit your partner for THEIR highest good, not the highest good of the finished drawing.
I really wish I could see your picture! If you like, take a photo of it and post it on the FB page! This is going to be SWEET!
Add to Your Daily Routine
Here is a little mantra you can say every morning as you are getting ready for your day. It seems simple, but over time, it will help you change your focus from being primarily goal oriented to being more relationally oriented. And THAT will bring you moments of joy and alleviate a LOT of frustration! (plus, it will actually HELP you accomplish your goals more efficiently!)
I love my friends and family and it brings me joy to support them and be supported by them as we work together on all sorts of little things throughout the day.
Plan Something FUN
We have a tendency to think of taking time out to party with friends as a luxury. But, by telling ourselves that we get to hang out and have fun after we get all our work done—that it is a reward or something we get to do only in our free time—we are actually de-valuing our friendships. We are putting the important people in our lives in second place behind our work.
Making time to hang out and have fun is vital to living. In fact, not spending enough time doing this is one of the biggest reasons we are depressed, anxious, and stressed.
I have a friend who runs a business in Mexico. He had a client come from the US. The client wanted to have a meeting at 2pm, but my friend took his lunch at that time. Lunch breaks here in Mexico often last for 2 hours. At first, the client was upset because he was used to taking a ½ hour at noon. But my friend explained that lunch is time for family and friends. They get together, share a meal, laugh and maybe have a drink, take a short nap, and then go back to work feeling happy and refreshed. The work day is extended to compensate for the break in the middle of the day and people often don’t get off work until 7pm.
Yes, you need to pay your bills, but consciously prioritizing the people in your life will make it easier to make time for them, and THAT will make you a happier person!
Take a look at your weekly schedule and take note of how much time you spend just having fun with friends. Remember, it is not a luxury, it is a necessity to your (and their) well-being. Where can you fit in more time to just hang out and have fun? Make a plan and then carry through on it!
Week THREE Review
So, let’s take a look at what happifying activities we added to your routine this week.
Become Aware of Other People, Encourage someone, Talk to Strangers, Pick Up the Phone, Be real, Collaborate, and Make Time to Party!
Do you see how many of these things can be linked together?
You could be standing at the check out buying groceries and really being aware of the person behind the counter (Becoming Aware of Others) You notice he/she is feeling a bit tired and so you find something nice to say to lift their spirits a bit (encourage someone AND talk to strangers). Sweet, you just did three of the things on your list all at once!
OR, you could pick up the phone and call a friend. When they ask how you are doing say, “a bit overwhelmed,” and then explain how you are trying to re-decorate your living room, but you feel a bit stuck. (Being real) Tell them you think they have a great sense of color (encourage someone) and then ask their opinion on a decorating project you are working on (collaborate). Sweet, three more things on your list!
So as we go through what your day might look like, let's take that into consideration.
Wake up and lay in bed, eyes still closed. Listen to the birds singing.
Open your eyes. Ask yourself the six questions about how you feel. What do you See? Hear? Feel? Smell? Taste? (OK, you will have to wait for your morning raw cacao for that one) and Sense?
Get up and get in the shower. Start with warm water and gradually turn the temperature down to cool so you feel energetic and invigorated and ready to start your day.
Scrub your body with a wash cloth dipped in herb and flower infused coconut oil
Get dressed and put on at least one thing you love to wear.
Make yourself a cup of Bribri Chocolate with raw cacao powder in it
Sit down and sip on it while you watch a short funny video, read a comic strip, or check your email to read something funny from the comedy list you signed up for.
Make a yummy breakfast with happy foods like a fresh egg omelet stuffed with spinach, mushroom, and feta cheese with sliced tomatoes sprinkled with chili powder and sea salt on the side.
Turn on some music (or listen to it in the car on your way to wherever you are going) to get your blood pumping and your happy going and start your day.
Head to the grocery store and go to the fruit and veggie isle. Find a vegetable you have never used before and notice a women near you is buying three of them. Say hello. (talk to strangers) and ask her how she prepares this new veggie. (Collaborate) Tell her the recipe sounds delicious (encourage someone) and that you plan to try it!
Call a friend when you get home and tell them about your new discovery. (Call a Friend) Suggest they come over for a "let's try new foods" evening. (Plan something fun)
Take a break in the afternoon and go for a walk. Turn your face toward the sun and breathe in the fresh air.
Ask yourself what you feel, hear, see, smell, taste, and sense and bring yourself into the present moment.
Find a quite spot to stretch out on the ground as you finish you walk. Prop your feet up on a rock and allow energy to sink into your core and refresh your whole body and clear your mind.
As evening settles in, listen with awareness to a family member tell you about their day.
When a family member asks how your day was, be open about how things went, even if it means saying you struggled a bit.
Finish out your day and snuggle up in bed in a blissfully peaceful, dark bedroom
Drift off to sleep thinking of all the wonderful things you did during the day that made you feel good about yourself
Congratulations! You have reached the end of week THREE.
Next week will bring some wonderful new insights.