“Stand silently in front of your partner and just look them in the eyes.”
Everyone in the room starts fidgeting. Someone starts laughing. A tear rolls down the cheek of a woman trying to hold in her emotions. A few glance at me as if to say “are you sure?”
As they stare at each other getting more uncomfortable, the energy starts shifting. Someone reaches out and touches the arm of the person in front of them as they start crying silently. All of them strangers. Connecting in a way they’ve never connected before. Staring – without words.
I walk them through a series of thoughts and wishes – hard stuff, easy stuff. When they’re done, I ask them to thank the person in front of them for sharing in their experience. Everyone’s hugging and crying and laughing – with a human who was a stranger just two minutes before. It’s only been two minutes and it feels like it’s been an eternity. They didn’t touch or speak or share anything else – they gave each other space and just looked.
No matter where in the world I do this, everyone says how much they hated feeling uncomfortable, and yet were so glad they did it. Most want to take it back to the office and freak out their coworkers. The Norwegians were my favorite – all of them holding up their steely cultural boundaries as they began and breaking them down quickly over the course of two minutes. Two guys approached me afterward & said, “I really like this guy! We’re going to be friends now & grab beers after this.” Another woman said, “I realized I haven’t looked at my husband in a really long time. I’m going to go home and really look at him.”
Communication isn’t just about the words we say. Leadership is not just about how persuasive we are. The conversations we’re having on a daily basis aren’t just made up of sentences. Yes, it matters what we say, but it also matters who we are and how we approach others. Just standing in front of another human being staring at them reminds us that we’re all connected on a deeper level than we realize.
Some call it energy. Others call it aura. I like to call it human-to-human connection.
“Invisible threads are the strongest ties.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
We’re all connected to each other. We’re all the same and different at the same time. We get hurt and feel pain. We feel sadness and cry. We hid in our shame. We get scared by our fears. We fall in love and get butterflies. We laugh out loud and feel joy. We choose how we want to feel on a daily basis – and yet, most of us are so stuck in our own “stuff” that we forget to notice how others are feeling. We’re so entrenched in our own shit that we end up closing off the space for others to share.
When we really ask, “How are you?” and use “active listening” skills, we hear more than the typical “good.” When we ask why and then look the person in the eye, we may get deeper answers. When we just give space for the other person to share – even if they need a moment – we connect on a level that’s uncomfortable for most. We connect in a way that allows each of us not to feel so alone.
“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” – William James
At your last networking event, if I asked you to tell me about the most interesting person in the room, you’d most likely choose someone who asked questions and listened – NOT the person who talked about themselves the most. That’s because we all want to be that person – the person who asks insightful questions and listens. Yet, how often do we practice this?
Giving another person the space to share – even if they can’t find the words – that’s powerful. Asking questions that go deeper than the surface – that’s potent. Truly listening to what’s going on – that’s alluring.
TRY THIS: In your next conversation with your spouse, kids, coworkers, friends, new acquaintance – notice where your eyes are focused. Are you looking at their eyes? Are you studying the lines in their face or their earrings or their hair? Are you looking off in the distance? Are you gathering your words by looking around? Are you uncomfortable staring at them? Or uncomfortable with them staring at you?
Why are you uncomfortable? Why are you disconnecting? Why aren’t you listening? What are you thinking about? Get to the bottom of it and then figure out what you need to do to connect deeper.
Want an exercise that will help before you try to really look at someone else? It’ll be uncomfortable. Brace yourself.
Let’s start with looking at you. And I mean REALLY looking at you. It all begins with you – and if you’re having a tough time with others, go deep into yourself and find out why this is.
Take a long look at yourself in the mirror. Stare into your own eyes & ask yourself these 3 questions.
1. What causes me stress?
2. When do I feel joy?
3. What needs to go?
Listen to yourself when you answer & then ask “why?”
See what comes up. When we’re being true to ourselves, we can be true with the world.
Take some time to journal the answers and then jump into the kickasshumansclub.com to share them. Open up a little, be vulnerable – let’s connect on a deeper level.