Personally it’s been very hard for me to connect well with people over the years. There always seemed to be an incredible awkwardness that accompanied talking to someone new. The only people that I could really have conversations with were people who were good at connecting with me.
Many of us know those types of people who are naturally good at talking to and making connections with people. But for some of us it is harder to maintain eye contact, find areas of common interest, show interest in people who are different than us, and to ultimately be ok with being uncomfortable. Those realities can put us in a position where we are not able to forge new friendships, deepen existing relationships, or succeed professionally.
Over the past 4 years I’ve gotten better at connecting with people through one not so simple trick: fake it.
When I say ‘fake it’ I don’t mean being disingenuous in relationships. What I mean is when it feels uncomfortable and you want to get out – keep going. You may not be interested or even comfortable in getting to know more about certain subjects or different cultural intricacies, but being uncomfortable in that relational connection can have incredible impact in both of your lives.
You might say that if you don’t feel like getting know more about that person then you are not just faking it but you are being fake. But if you believe relationships are more valuable than accomplishments, then pushing through your own prejudices and cultural differences can bring you closer to being more Christ-like. For when we value relationships over and above accomplishments, we are less likely to exploit individual relationships for selfish gain.
One of the best way to be unselfish is to practice thinking about others, especially if you have a hard time connecting with people.
So if you have a friend, coworker, or a student who you struggle to connect with, ask them about themselves (where they are from, what music they like, their literary interests, etc), finding those places where they are different from you. Then ask about those differences to jump into the uncomfortable mystery of who that person is.
What this practice does is give that person the ability to share about themselves in a way that not many other people want to hear about. It also gives you a more clear understanding of how to continue a meaningful relationship with them.
What are some tools that help you connect with people who are different than you?