Connection. As human beings, it’s one of our most basic and primitive needs. Being part of a community and connecting with others was once imperative for the survival of our species. The idea of being in “groups” initially formed as a means to fend off predators. In today’s modern world, however, the impact of human connection runs deeper than merely a survival instinct.
The predator we face today isn’t always visible but is prevalent nonetheless: loneliness, depression, and isolation. Social media and technology leads us to believe that we’re more connected than ever before, but it also begs the question: who are we truly connected with? Do “friends” on Facebook or “followers” on Instagram really have anything to do with genuine human connection? When you put your phone on airplane mode or shut down your computer for the day, what fills the silence around you?
Combating Loneliness in the Workplace
Despite being surrounded by people during the day, many people feel the most alone at work. As a former public relations and advertising sales professional, I was constantly surrounded by others. But was I actually connected to them? As we all hustled our way through projects, meetings, and deadlines, I realized that I spent more time with these people than I did with my own husband or friends. Despite the large amount of time we spent together, we didn’t know anything about each other.
This got me thinking: How is it that I could share a cubicle wall with someone five days a week, eight hours a day, and never know anything about their hobbies or passions? How did I not know that my cubicle-mate was a triathlon competitor? That my colleague had a cottage on the lake she went to every weekend? The human connection we so badly crave today needs to run deep. You can’t create connection by simply being around someone and engaging in surface-level small talk.
Creating Opportunities for Meaningful Human Connections at Work
Since leaving the corporate world and transitioning into wellness mentorship and meditation, it is clear to me that shared work is not enough to establish an intentional connection with others. And while many companies are making office culture more appealing to induce “social interaction,” what’s actually needed are outlets that are conducive to unearthing deeper levels of human connection.
We are not our jobs. We are not the house we live in or the car we drive. We are all having variations of the same human experience at the same time. And while we live out many “roles” throughout our lifetime, we all ultimately want to be loved and accepted for who we are at our core. Greater connection to those around us leads to more meaningful relationships, more productivity during shared time together, and stronger roots of trust and value.
Playing an Active Role in Relationship Building
So how can you bring a more conscious connection into your workspace?
Allow yourself to explore what it means for you to be self-aware. What’s something that you value that you’d like to connect with others on? Maybe it’s biking in nature or time on your yoga mat. Become clear on where it is that you’re searching for deeper connections in your own life. You might just find that some of your coworkers have similar values.
If you play an active role in mindfully listening to others and observing your surroundings, you can create opportunities for understanding, compassion, and connection. Perhaps you’ll begin to notice items on your colleague’s desk that carry significance, or you sense changes in your colleague’s emotional state. From observation alone, what do you think is important to that person? Again, this is a great way to move beyond work talk and towards meaningful conversation.
Leading the Way!
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there – without expectations. Many people shy away from attempts to connect with others because we’re afraid of rejection. At the end of the day, though, connecting with others is all we’re really searching for, so if you’re proactive in engaging with others, your colleagues will follow your lead. Sometimes genuine interest is all it takes to inspire human connection.
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Mary Beth Mannino is a certified holistic health coach. She cultivates conscious connections and meaningful life experiences through 1:1 health and lifestyle coaching with individuals and groups through wellness events. She provides clients with the tools and resources they need to step into a life that serves their truest, most authentic selves.