All of these blogs thus far are nice and all. Us humans are wired for social connection. Social connection is really good for us. Both physically and psychologically. Blah blah blah. But what is good social connection? What does it look like? What does it feel like? How do we know when we’re getting it? How do we get it? How do we give it to others?
There’s this friend of a friend who I occasionally see at the odd event or gathering or dinner. For ages I’ve been completely perplexed by this dude. My friends seem to really enjoy his company and they describe him as funny and nice and intelligent. But all of this is lost on me. Initially I just assumed he must think I am an idiot. Obvs. Over the course of a number of years, I have never been able to connect with him. And now I am going to put all the blame onto him. Obvs.
Firstly, he has a tendency to speak really quietly out of the side of his mouth to the person/s directly to the side of him. This makes any conversation difficult when you sit on the other side of the table. And he mumbles. His eye contact is incredibly poor. Secondly, when I offer something to the conversation, he will never engage in the topic. And often he will immediately change or dismiss the topic. And in all this time, and despite my best efforts to engage him in conversation, he has never once asked me a question. This could be because he thinks I am an idiot. Or his capacity for connection with me is a bit deficient.
Social psychologist, researcher and writer, Hugh Mackay reckons that human behaviours are motivated by ten main desires. When it comes to social connection, there’s one of these that I think is particularly important in determining how we relate to others and how we want others to relate to us – that’s the desire to be taken seriously.
To some degree, all of us want to be taken seriously. We want to be noticed, accepted, appreciated, valued and understood. Perhaps as we get older, we want to make sure we’ll be remembered.
When I engage with the fellow mentioned above do I have the opportunity to feel that I have been taken seriously? Hell no! The truth of the matter is, that I’ve been taken more seriously by puppies than this gentlemen. And as a result, I haven’t yet had a good connection with this guy.
And how do we ensure that we take others seriously? We really only need to do a few simple things.
- Reduce our need to control.
- Respect each other’s differences.
“So the way we listen to each other, the way we respect each other’s passions (even if we don’t share them), the way we respond to each other’s needs, the way we make – or don’t make – time for each other… all these things send clear signals about the extent to which we are taking each other seriously”.
So, the desire to be taken seriously, a possible starting point for us to form good social connections. It does have a dark side though. When we feel as though we’re not being taken seriously, we can become incredibly frustrated and cranky. But maybe it’s possible, if we go into our dealings with others, recognising that they too want the same thing as we do, we end up with interactions filled with patience, a little more kindness and a little more compassion? And listening. I’m a big fan of listening.