First things first: It’s good to have connections with others. In fact, you need them. For guys, unlike us women, the issue is that there is often a disconnect between what they want and what we know how to do.
Making connections with others isn’t really all that hard. It takes a bit of skill and some intense attention, but it can be done and it’s worth it.
So, here’s a man’s guide to making a connection with the people that matter.
- Believe that you can do it – It’s that simple, to begin with. You can make connections with people. In fact, you’ve probably been doing it all your life. The thing is that what we’re doing here is putting a frame around it and making it a repeatable idea. You can do this. With everything else that you’ve done in your life, this is easy. You’ve had friends all your life. You’ve probably got a wife (or had one) that you made a connection with. You’ve got this.
- Read the person – This might the hardest part in the beginning. Usually, with kids and teenagers, it’s not hard to read their body language, but you can learn this skill by simply watching people. Next time you go out for coffee, watch how people are interacting (or aren’t interacting). If a woman is leaning into the person she’s talking to, she’s interested. If she’s turned her side to that person, she’s aloof and doesn’t care. If a man is looking directly at the person he’s talking to, he’s trying to keep them in the conversation. If he’s looking at his phone or simply looking at his lunch, he’s not really engaged. If someone is looking at their hands they are either shy or intimidated. It’s not hard to read people once you start trying. In fact, you can start by watching what you do.
- Understand by asking for more information – Ask questions. Most men have a tendency to figure out what needs to be said and say it. When it comes to women, men tend to get a bit frustrated when we take 300 words to say what we could have said in 25. There is no word limit on each day. Every word a woman or anyone else says is important to them and you need to make it important to you. Whenever there is a break in the conversation take that moment to ask another question. Draw them out in conversation. The most effective to get someone to believe that you’re a great guy is to let them talk about themselves.
- Let them know you understand – OK. Sorry, dudes. A grunt is not enough to get it across to someone that you understand, especially when you’re talking to a woman. You need to open your mouth and make it clear that you understand what they’re talking about. It can be as simple as, “I understand,” but you need to learn to make it clear that you get it and that you’ve been paying attention. If there is a single sentence that every future ex-wife says it’s “He doesn’t listen to me!” Listening has got to be the easiest thing the world in the world. When you were an infant, it’s the first thing that you did. You couldn’t make words, or write, or type, or fix a truck, but you could hear. Reclaim the listening skills and make your life better. Most importantly, make life easier for those that you love.
Since most men are visual learners, I found an old video that demonstrates what this looks like.
Psychologist Carl Rogers was a pretty tough guy and in the 1950s and 1960s he taught “active listening” or “empathic listening.” I started it in a place where you can see how these people are listening to each other. It’s an old video and the quality isn’t great but you can see how intently Rogers and his colleague are listening. In fact, it’s said that Rogers would sit and listen to someone talk for an hour and he would be covered with sweat because he was working that hard to hear every word and take it all in.
Make a list of the places that listening more intently might have saved you problems:
- When your parents were teaching you things, even if they were mad, they would have liked to have had you listening more closely.
- With dates, as soon as you stopped listening closely, they stopped coming around.
- With spouses, being listened to is at the top of their needs and complaints.
- At work, your boss will often repeat herself to make sure that you’re clear on what she needs.
- Your kids have tried to explain things to you, even things that you already know, but to them, it was all new.
Learning to connect, learning to listen more closely is on the list of the things that you can do in your life that will make everything a lot easier.
Human connections are at the core of our survival and you need those connections to live a full life. Even though millions of men look upon Star Trek’s Mr. Spock as an idol, even he needed friendship, trust, and affection to make life worth living.
The four steps above can be used everywhere and are the basis for success at building connections with nearly everyone.
If you’re reading the person well, it’s very easy to know how to look at them, what to say, and how to react. The key is to take the time to build a connection with everyone. The people around you are the ones that you can count on when you’re in need.