You Get What You Give
By Erik Bigalk
Stories are ultimately what connect us - be that the stories we tell, we watch on Netflix or the stories around work, our heritage, the game on the weekend or more deeper personal stories.
And, it is in these stories that we connect with each other, the depth of which is ultimately up to us to determine. Sadly, though, many of our stories and our connections tend to remain on the surface and offer therefore little meaningful connection.
Especially for us men it can be difficult to be vulnerable and to share stories of our struggles rather than our triumphs. Yet, this does not mean that it is impossible. Only when we take the daring step of sharing more innermost or deeper stories, are we rewarded with deeper connections.
Like with anything really, we get out what we put in. If we go to a business networking event and simply hand out business cards or present our elevator pitch the level of connection we are making is likely to be rather narrow and impersonal.
Yet, if we focus on the person we are meeting and take the communication beyond just the business and find out who they are, what makes them tick, what do they like or struggle with - we are making a much deeper connection. Only such connections can lead to the infamous know, like and trust sentiment that can lead to doing business or wanting to refer one another.
It is much the same with other situations and especially with our co-workers, team mates or friends. You see, because it seems so daring to open up and share more intimate and personal aspects of ourselves, if we wait for the other person to open up, chances are, the other is waiting for you. And, so, nothing happens...
Yet, we talk about cars, work, money (maybe), sport, the weather, the news, celebrities or gossip and more often than not keep the conversation light, fun and easy. But the level of connection we get also stays chat-like, superficial and on the surface. But, if we ourselves were to open up a little deeper, share how we really feel about something, what we struggle with or are afraid of, then we open the door to deeper connection - not just for our sake but that of the other(s) too.
Best of all, when we do, the conversation changes, we create more depth, we get to learn more about the other and what is going on for them and often we find that we are all struggling or are challenged, many times with the same or similar things. The moment we open up, we also give permission for the other person to open up and more depth and connection is created.
It does not mean that you have to make every conversation a deep and meaningful one, but while women naturally share at much deeper levels with their friends or often even with strangers very quickly, us men seem to hold back. Just imagine you would take the daring step of wearing your heart on your sleeve, of sharing more openly, maybe about what you struggle with or how you really feel about something. Chances are, others will be able to relate and open up too.
I think the most precious of things we can give one another is our undivided presence and attention and usually it will be returned and replicated to us. The same applies to sharing more deeply. Nothing is more important than real connection. And if the rise in mental health, loneliness and especially male suicide is any indication, then we actually have a dire need for more deeper and open communication and connection.
If you feel it is too hard for you to start, it is just as hard (or even harder) for everyone else. And, if the opportunity for more meaningful communication and the feeling of greater connection for you is not enough to help you take the first step, just think that your mate may need that conversation more urgently than you do, so open it up for them… Over to you.
TIPS ON HOW TO HELP MEN CONNECT
Excellent advice. I think of many situations in my clinical practice that supports this approach. Take time to listen to their story
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