Updated: Jul 2, 2020
How can we create deeper connections?
Some people can effortlessly win the heart and attention of others. How does this work?
The short answer: FULL PRESENCE (They give their heart and attention first.)
One day, at my first job as a preschool teacher's assistant, I learned an incredible lesson about connecting to others. There was a boy named Tenzen. He was pale, lanky, had a round face and dark features. Tenzen was my favorite student because he was tranquil most of the time (except today). Tenzen looked at me like the father he didn't have, so play time with my was important.
That day, Tenzen asked me to help him build a castle. We got the bucket of magnet blocks and sprawled on the carpet. Beginning with the base, we created long, horizontal formations. We moved onto the tower. Tenzen had it covered. So I moved onto the moute. I started using blue blocks to surround the perimeter. Suddenly, Tenzen stopped. Looking puzzled and a little annoyed, he said “I thought you were going to help me with this.” “I am!” I said, “I am building the moute.” “The moute? This castle is in a town with no water, so that makes no sense.” “Ah ha! Ok Tenzen, I see.” And I switched back to working on the castle walls.
Misconnections like this happen all the time. They’re subtle, but they inhibit us from connecting on a deeper level. What was the disconnect in that story? It was that I had my own agenda. I was thinking about what I thought a castle needs. Yet, it was Tenzen’s castle. Tenzen’s vision. The disconnect occurred when I assumed I understood, and went off with my own idea.
This is exactly what happens in conversation.
We hear a story, It reminds us of our own experience or something we read, then we wait for them to be done so we can talk. Yet, this rarely creates depth in conversation. At best, it can create comfort or support. So I decided to find out what was that missing ingredient in these misconnections or shallow connections.
I looked online to find out how to connect to people. What I found was videos on how to never run out of things to say, how to use body language to connect. But to me that’s backwards. This is performance. Engagement must be genuine, from the inside out.
The one thing I found to be consistent in people who have the ability to connect with others effortlessly is presence.
Presence does 3 important things.
1, It creates deep listeners.
A deep listener does not just listen to the surface level of what’s being said. They pay attention to their emotional state. There is massive amounts of subtle information being conveyed by the speaker, yet it’s only perceptible with full presence. A change of pace, a sense of hesitation, shallow breath. I’m sure you’ve all felt it. When you’re absorbed in a good story, you feel like you're the character. You can feel how they felt and think about what they must be thinking, right?
When you’re not focusing on yourself and what the content means to you, you free up the mental space to approach the conversation with curiosity. When you do this, you switch your intention from performing, “ what am I going to say next”, to being, being attentive, being curious, being committed to understanding them. If I had presence with Tenzen, I would have asked him how he wants to build the tower, instead of building the moute myself.
2, It creates engaged speakers.
When you are fully absorbed in the story you are telling, gestures, pauses, pace are all authentically matched to your words. You embody the story.
If I was to speak in front of you about confidence and simultaneously be hunched over and be talking quietly, that in-congruence of words and actions would create a lack of trust and no connection.
3, It creates deeper connections.
When speakers are present with what they’re saying, they engage the listeners. When listeners are curious and attentive, speakers sense this and become more engaged themselves. This is a two way street. Presence is infectious!
And when this contagious presence infects the other, you make connections.
Deep connections always occur on the vertical plane of experience. The plane of emotions. When people are listened to, they feel important, they feel secure and they will trust you more. When trust is created, deeper parts of the speaker will be revealed. When you speak with presence, you will be magnet and charismatic. People will trust that what you’re saying is important, because you’re sticking with your story, embodying each sentence.
Presence creates understanding. Understanding creates trust. Trust creates connection. If you use the power of presence, you will find that others will follow your lead, and you will have created a deeper connection.