In past articles, I have discussed the importance of communication and the impact of poor communication on individual and organizational levels of stress. More basic than this is the need to connect effectively with people. Obviously, communication difficulties, contribute to poor connections and lead to increased stress and poor performance. At the core of this issue is the innate desire to make connection for support, protection, and potential growth of the community. By “connection, " I mean relating well with another person or group of people, where this relationship can include concern, nuturing, support, or a demonstration of care. It can be any combination of: emotional, intellectual, spiritual, or physical, and shows a “sharing" in some personal way.
Many people have not had good models of positive, “healthy" relationships. Other people have not been taught the skills for connecting. And still others, for personal reasons (based on negative past experience) choose to sabotage their relationships and the relationships of people around them. This happens at home and at work, and everywhere in between.
People suffering from poor or non-existent healthy interaction with other people can suffer from a range of physical and emotional symptoms. These might include: depression, panic/anxiety, chronic back pain, poor sleep, stomach disorders, low libido, high blood pressure, even cancer (due to loss of a loved one or lack of a source of love. )
In primitive times, our fragile, but developing ancestors, needed to band together for hunting and protection. In the modern world, these primitive needs may seem somewhat removed for most of us in a “civilized" world, but there is added pressure to connect socially, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, romantically, and even financially. Most of us would wither in health and quality of life without intimacy with other people. We need family, friends, teachers, and partners at work. Remember our need for others is linked to reduced self-sufficiency and reliance on products and services that other people produce.
Things go wrong in our attempts to “connect. " We do not feel “whole" when we do not have support. People get very stressed when they feel “alone. " Our society seems to move us more into cubicles and isolation by reducing experience where interaction with other people is face-to-face. E-mail, for example, is preferred to telephone calls or visits which can require social graces and non-business interaction.
Physical interaction, though desired, seems to be reduced by fears of inappropriate behaviors or actions. Our skills of communication decrease as we interact with computer screens, e-mails, and PDA's instead of people.
Stress management and wellness often requires us to reduce noise and interactions so that we can focus on the process of internally quieting to regain levels of calmness. But stress management and wellness also require that most of us have positive connection and interaction with caring people.
If you find this is lacking or unsatisfied in your life, you may want to examine alternatives that provide positive human interaction. Volunteering in your community may be a great source of positive interaction. One of my friends visits weekly with an elderly person (not a relative) to provide some balance and positive connection in his life. Both of these people profit from the few minutes that they spend together. Church activities, coaching in youth sports, teaching reading in schools, community involvement, team sports, group activities (hiking, hobbies, fund raising) and many other activities can provide the opportunities to connect with other people.
The excuse many people use for not doing these activities is that they do not have the time or energy. You must make the time to connect and you will find that energy comes to you when you effectively connect in positive ways. Please try to connect for yourself and support others who need this in their lives. Do not neglect your relationships with friends. These require encouragement, investments in time and energy, and your deep desire to maintain these important interactions. Even when you feel wounded and want to withdraw, I encourage you to attempt to connect with positive people and situations in your environment which offer you support and help you to move forward in the most positive ways.
Remember, you can not control the way other people respond. You can only control the way you respond to the experiences that you may have. In relationships, timing is very importment. What may be good timing for you may not the best time for your partner. Try to not take a perceived rejection of your attempt at relating, too seriously. It may not be you at all, but poor timing. Never stop trying to find the best situation for connection (and work to make every existing relationship even better. )
Along the way, do not forget to take good care of yourself!
L. John Mason, Ph. D. is the author of the best selling “Guide to Stress Reduction. " Since 1977, he has offered Executive Coaching and Training.
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