The One Thing We’re All Looking For

During our short time on this Earth, whether it’s making a deal in business, giving a commencement speech, or choosing a lifelong partner, I believe connection is at the crux of everything we do.

One of our most fundamental instincts as humans is the desire to connect with others. We’re social creatures after all and we developed language for a reason.

And I’m not just talking about connecting with people in a romantic context. 

I started a new job recently and whether it’s the fact that we’ve been stuck behind Zoom screens for the last year or that I’ve had to start over so many times in life, I felt this instant desire to connect with someone quickly. 

I didn’t hesitate in reaching out to immediate teammates and was interested in getting to know them. The whole onboarding process can feel pretty detached when done remotely, but I found that the more I connected with teammates, the more at ease I felt. Suddenly, things didn’t feel so detached anymore.

It’s amazing how quickly things change as soon as you make a connection with someone.

Showing a genuine interest in others is not something that comes easily, though. People can tell when you truly want to know them and that in turn makes them more curious about you. 

You see, many of us talk, but not all of us are heard. 

We all have a story to tell, something that has transformed us, thickened our skin, made us question our beliefs, and pushes us to move forward every single day. The thing is we tend to prioritize getting our own stories across and in the process crush the other person’s attempt at doing the same. 

This brings to mind Stephen Covey’s quote: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. When we pave the way for someone to tell their story, uninterrupted and with our full attention, not only do we start to forge that connection, but also they’ll be much more willing to reciprocate that interest in hearing ours.

A lot of us save building a connection for certain moments or people in our lives, but who’s to say we can’t do this more often? 

You’d think something as simple as browsing a store wouldn’t leave much room for a connection, right? Usually, the drill is: you go in, feel pressured to look around thoroughly, and then leave quickly. But in these socially-deprived times, think again.

Having walked into a clothing store one weekend, ironically, the first thing I noticed was a beautiful gold arched floor mirror. I asked one of the salespeople where it was from, accompanied by a nervous laugh in anticipation of her surprise. This got me talking about my upcoming move and consequent hyper-awareness of furniture and decor. The salesperson then asked where I’m moving to and showed a genuine interest in hearing my story. 

When I finished my spiel, she started making suggestions about where to buy furniture and enthusiastically talked about a hobby she’d made out of just periodically refreshing Craigslist until interesting items would pop up (some of which are free, apparently). Realizing this wasn’t the usual type of conversation that transpired in a clothing store brought a smile to my face. 

Ultimately, I left that store not having purchased anything, but I still left with a sense of fulfillment because I had a pleasant and genuine exchange with someone. During this pandemic, you can just tell people are more interested than usual in talking to others, and I immediately picked up on that vibe from the salespeople in that store, which in turn made me more willing to go beyond the usual small talk. 

What better time to take advantage of this need for people to connect?

With that being said, here’s my challenge to you: 

  1. Make it a point to let others tell you their story, whether it’s before or after you tell yours. 
  2. Practice going a step further in establishing a connection with someone (however fleeting it may be) in everyday situations, such as when you’re getting your coffee, when you go for a haircut, or if someone comes over to do maintenance work in your home.

Even tackling just one of those two points will vastly improve your interactions with others and propagate the benefits to other aspects of your life.