I spent much of December exploring what connection means and how it is used successfully and unsuccessfully in my own relationships. I’ve shared stories relating to the main skills I think make ordinary conversations extraordinary. I still have so much to learn.
A lot of what I shared this week was scary and new for me. I find connecting with others easier than connecting with those who are closest to me. In a lot of ways I am struggling with the relationships that matter most; sometimes learning takes time and a lot of mistakes before we get it right.
In 2016 I took many steps towards authenticity, making sure what I say and do is in line with how I feel. I took inventory of all the things I’ve been curious and/ or passionate about and I started trying them. It takes a lot of courage to start over.
I called myself a writer even though it’s been something I’ve loved doing since I could first write words on paper. I stayed home with my kids and focused a lot of time on family. I volunteered. I made friends. Unexpectedly, I took a job in a classroom. Although I’ve always been curious about education, I did not anticipate the abrupt change of pace.
The point of all of this is to say, I understand how hard it is. It is hard to put yourself out there when the story repeating in your head is of inadequacy. It’s hard to find common ground with someone your polar opposite. It is hard to find the silver lining when you’re scared. It’s hard to move towards people that you have little in common with. It’s hard having tough conversations with people we love.
Connecting with others boils down to one important skill, the practice of empathy. Empathy is little bits and pieces of all the things I’ve written about this week. It is being present in the conversation, it is not being afraid to find common ground or see the world through someones eyes, it is bringing people in with the common denominator of humanity, it is knowing we all believe in something, and acknowledging in others what we want to be acknowledged for. Empathy is something we move towards and aspire to. It is a practice that is learned not something we are automatically skilled at. Empathy is not only a choice, but a life long practice. It is the foundation of growth in connection and relationship.
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