no This past week I started a new friendship. This person has been in my life for about 10 years, but since I always saw her as successful, popular, and busy, it never occurred to me to reach out on a personal level. To be honest, this didn't seem very necessary since we had no direct professional ties other than being in the same community. So, what changed? I was feeling very inspired one day after a particularly invigorating time of meditation/prayer and she popped into my head. Staying with the momentum I was feeling, I jotted off an email and invited her to lunch. It felt good to do this and we ended up having a fabulous lunch that was very empowering. We opened up communication and we connected.
Now, since the majority of my work is based on opening up communication as a way to become more successful professionally, a part of me was tempted to ask, "So, how is this going to help me?" As I thought about it, I realized that this question that I thought had helped me focus in the past, was the very question that had kept me from reaching out to this person all these years. Maybe the real question is not how something will help me professionally, but rather the quality of life I want to live and how the connections I make contribute or detract from it. This lunch connected me with a very wonderful person and my life is better for having done it. We had no agenda. We had no goals to meet. We didn't even talk about future actions. We just ate and talked.
Good things happen when we connect with others and with ourselves. We don't always need an agenda and while I understand that in our society time is very precious, it is worth spending it on these connections. I have no idea if this will lead to business connections or even a future lunch, but I do know that I learned how another human being thinks and sees the world. I was challenged to get outside of myself and I learned a bit about how she had seen me all these years.
In the field of communication studies, being able to see how others look at the world and at you is called Dual Perspective. It's an important quality for effective communication and for workplaces that are healthy. I recently had a man call me for assistance who was the director of a department that was apparently just about to explode due to negativity. During our conversation he was so angry about his employees that at times he couldn't speak. His current plan? To go in on Monday and make them regret ever saying anything bad about him or the company.
Now, I completely understand this mindset. He certainly seemed justified, however, when I asked what he hoped would be the result he admitted that he hadn't thought that far. So, together we began to talk about connecting with these people and about what end result he really wanted. Sure he could go in and yell at them. He might even feel better temporarily (though I doubt it), but what would that do to his connection with them and how would the department function in the following days and weeks?
For a few minutes we began to think about dual perspective and he calmed down quite a bit. Then together we created a plan for him to move forward. This morning he called to tell me that using the plan we created he was able to take things to a new level with each of his employees. In fact, the employee with whom he had been the angriest turned out to be his best meeting of the day. Now he is moving forward with confidence that things are in a better place.
It's not that a problem didn't exist and it is certainly not the case that he ignored it, but he approached it from a dual perspective with a plan and a goal of ending in a better place.
It's not always easy to take that step whether it be connecting with a person in a new way or simply daring to tell your emotions that you can make a more informed choice, but it is always worth it. My challenge to you right now is to approach someone in a new way, whether it be someone you've known forever, but never took the time to really know or be it someone who works for/with you that's driving you crazy and you're tempted to take things in a negative direction. Make a connection! (Oh, and feel free to let us know about it! We love success stories!)
Lynne M. Smelser, Ph.D. is an expert in communication. Her speciality is helping people to look internally to find barriers. Over the years she has helped companies create dynamic content and open communication channels. She also has assisted many individuals in overcoming communication anxiety and developing projects such as novels, memoirs, and ebooks.