Connection, or more specifically, the lack of connection, has been a topic of concern for nearly everyone I’ve met with lately.

How do we keep remote employees feeling connected? When we bring people together in the office, how do we encourage them to actually connect with one another?

But it’s not just connection at work. It seems that we are struggling to connect with people in all corners of our lives.

This week, I presented a webinar for a client’s employees titled “Get Connected.” One of the things I shared is how research has shown that our connection to others is perhaps the most significant driver of our health, happiness, and success in life. It’s also a key to longevity.

Connection also helps us feel more productive and satisfied at work. It makes communication and collaboration more effective. There is no downside.

And yet…

We are all struggling to figure out how to do this work–myself included. And that’s ironic given that Joe Gerstandt and I published a book way back in 2012 titled Social Gravity: Harnessing the Natural Laws of Relationships.

The pandemic really did a number on us socially.

I’ve been studying the power of connection for over twenty years now, and I didn’t realize until recently how much my own ability to connect had been affected.

In Social Gravity, Joe and I share what we call the Six Laws of Social Gravity. These are rules or maxims we uncovered that lead to better connections and relationships with others.

One of the six laws is “Be Open to Connection.

It reminds us that we must make ourselves available to build new relationships or deepen the connections in existing relationships.

This is about how we show up with others and our desire to do this work to connect. It is also about where we show up physically (i.e. do we go to that birthday party or make an excuse to stay home and watch Netflix instead?).

Earlier this year, when I began to emerge from my burnout recovery work with restored mental health and new energy, I began to realize something about myself.

Through the trauma of the pandemic experience, I had built some layers of social armor around me. That period of time when other humans represented a real and present danger to my family’s safety apparently stuck with me.

When I walked down the street or went to the store or traversed an airport terminal, I felt very insulated from the other humans around me. It was almost like they weren’t even there.

It wasn’t just a feeling I had. I started to realize that I was projecting a “don’t look at me, don’t talk to me” vibe. And when you are nearly six and a half feet tall throwing off this energy, people oblige.

I wasn’t open to connection. Quite the opposite. I was actively isolating myself from connection.

It didn’t feel great. So I decided to experiment.

I committed to bringing a more open and positive energy when I was going to be around other people. When I am on a walk or at the store, I look at people and smile at them. I’ll even say hello to strangers.

It felt a bit odd to get started. But it began producing rewards immediately.

People smiled back.

Some were surprised by the random moment of connection, and others seemed delighted that another human had noticed them.

It’s not as if I’ve started having long conversations with strangers everywhere I go. It’s mainly a bunch of driveby moments of human connection.

But It feels great. In fact, being out of my house feels different now. It’s kind of wild.

I didn’t realize how disconnected I had allowed myself to become. And I’m someone who spends a lot of time thinking about connection.

This got me thinking.

Is part of the reason we’re all feeling so disconnected that we’ve closed ourselves off to the possibility? Is the pandemic story about other people being unsafe so ingrained that we are having trouble getting past it?

Add to that our obsession with staring at our phones and the increasing frenetics of our busy lives, and I’d say that we have a dilemma on our hands.

But, I think there’s hope.

Despite our lack of openness to connection right now, we are desperately craving it.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been with several groups where I shared with them my four-step check-in conversation. It’s a simple and powerful way to invite a meaningful conversation with someone.

After teaching them the process, I invite them to find a partner and practice. Typically, I allow them about 2-3 minutes each to check-in with each other.

Then, we debrief the experience together. Here’s a few of the things they have said.

“We got straight into a great conversation.”

“I can’t believe how quickly we were talking about real stuff.”

“We’ve worked together for years, and I just learned things about him I never knew before.”

At one event, I had people share afterward that the person they checked-in with (who was a complete stranger at a conference) was in tears during their two-minute conversation.

We are starving for connection. We are starving to feel seen and known by others.

We just aren’t sure how to connect.

Here’s my invitation to you today:

  1. Check-in with yourself. How open are you to connecting with others? Do your decisions about how you show up and how you use your time reflect your desire for connection? If not, what kind of experiments could you try to invite more connection.
  2. Learn my check-in process and try it out with a few people. Here’s a video that explains how it works. I think you’ll be amazed by how asking a great question can quickly create the opportunity for a meaningful conversation.

As we consider how to foster more connection at work, the best place to start is by examining our own experience.

Consider the challenges you face when it comes to being open to connection. Take steps to experiment with growing your own feelings of connection. Find results and feel the impact on your own life and work.

From that place, you’ll have the energy, conviction, and empathy you need to start doing this work for others.

Getting people connected with one another is transformative work. It will not only change work for the better, but also change the world.


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Jason Lauritsen