There’s one quality that can immediately improve both your personal and professional life: Connection. Matthew Lieberman, author of "Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect," has provided the research: Humans need connection as much as they need food and water.
Connection brings better health, higher productivity, and increased motivation. The desire to connect is at the core of what it means to be human. Here are two simple ways to dramatically improve your connectivity no matter what your title or role.
See with super vision
We all crave being truly seen, yet often we fail to see others. When all we see is someone’s age, religion, political affiliation or gender, we miss the mark and only see categories that serve to separate us. It’s easy to see other people as just cogs in a wheel. Employees are just there to get the job done. The waitress is there to bring our food, the cashier is there to get you out of the line quickly. Your child is there to make you a proud parent.
In short, when we see people as a means to our end, we do not truly see them. We do not see their interests, gifts, talents, desires and pains. We only see ourselves and how they can fulfill our own interests.
How to see with super vision: Decide to notice the brilliance of others. Notice your neighbor’s ability to do carpentry. Recognize your grandmother’s love of crochet and see her genius. Observe your physician and lean about what it took to get through medical school. Realize the talent of your friend who plays in a band.
Now do the same for your employees in noticing their interests and talents, but don’t stop there.
Verbally acknowledge what you notice. Find the interest and appreciate what it took for them to do what they do. This skill takes practice and repetition, so do the same for your colleagues and boss. If you don’t see a skill or talent what about their character? Their sense of humor, their patience, their willingness to give 100%.
When you really start seeing others, your whole world and your heart expands.
Let go of judgment
There’s a difference between making good judgments and being judgmental. I make a distinction by using the word “discernment” to mean making good judgment, and I use 'judgmental" to mean judging others based on your own value system.
Discernment (making good judgments) helps us to live by our values, but judging others is how we attempt to prove our superiority whether it be in looks, intelligence, social status, wealth or the hundreds of other categories that mostly serve to disconnect us from other people.
How to stop judging: Stop labeling and stop name-calling. Your judgment does not define another person. It only defines you as one who judges. (This is helpful to remember if you are the one being judged, and it’s helpful for course correction if you have fallen into this unproductive habit.)
Ad hominem attacks are so common now on social media and in the news that we are creating a new normal where name-calling and incivility have become acceptable behavior. The first decision you can make is to stop this type of bullying behavior.
Take the cringe-worthy test: When yourself talking negatively about anyone else, pause for a moment. Take it in. Then add to your sentence, “Just like me.” See how that lands. If you cringe, it’s a judgment.
So, for example, if you say, “She’s a control freak,” your next sentence is “just like me.” Or, “He’s a narcissist ...” then say, “just like me.” This exercise helps you to see how language either connects us or separates us.
Seeing others as separate is a form of ostracism born from unconscious bias. It’s easier to judge "them" instead of entering into dialogue to find the connection. When you see others as “just like you” then, even when they are misguided, you can offer some grace, and make a connection.
We are wired to connect. As a human being connection brings better health, higher cognitive ability and well-being. As a leader, connectivity increases productivity, teamwork, engagement and workplace culture.
Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker and the author of "Stop Workplace Drama" (Wiley 2011), "No-Drama Leadership" (Bibliomotion 2015) and "7 Ways to Stop Drama in Your Healthcare Practice" (Greenbranch 2018) and an advanced practitioner of Narrative Coaching. Connect with Chism via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and at MarleneChism.com.