Yesterday I received a thank you note from a reader in Arkansas. She said an old post of mine helped her get through a rough patch recently. Though her encouragement and gratitude were very special to me (I’ve saved every thank you note I’ve received for the last 15 years in a folder), this one line made me pause and think:
“Thank you, you have no idea how you speak to my growth.”
The truth is, there are many lives that each of us touch in positive, meaningful ways that we never know about. So many of us have replaced friendships with friend requests, face time with Snapchat, and long talks on long walks with updating our Story. We’ve bought into the lie that we’re “so busy” that social media is the only way we can stay in touch anymore.
And yet, the average user spends 50 minutes a day on Facebook alone. 50 minutes that could have been spent actually connecting with a friend in person or in conversation on the phone was sacrificed in exchange for scrolling through a robitically curated feed of posts, shares, and ads that Facebook thinks you want to see most. This doesn’t even begin to fulfill the longing we have for real connection. So, to numb the ache, we swipe over to Instagram. Swipe down. Red hearts! Someone likes you! Oh, wait. It’s a bot. Next…Snapchat. And, repeat.
If this scenario is as relatable to you as it is borderline nauseating, allow me to share 3 things I’ve been exploring in my own life to help me create REAL life connections:
1) When you learn something in life, share it with someone else.
Whether it’s a new skill that enhances your career, a new hobby that makes you feel more human, or a life lesson that you learned through a recent challenge, take time to share what you’ve learned with someone in your life. This is a great way to enhance conversations, and help you go beyond the typical, dead-end questions, like “how was your day”, and you just might teach someone else something new at the same time. If someone teaches you something, or encourages you in some way, be intentional about circling back around to them to say thank you, and tell them about your experience. If what you’ve learned could be beneficial to your children, take them on a walk and tell them about it!
2) Trade out the superficial small-talk with vulnerable truth.
Though it’s hard to see it when we’re in the middle of a rough patch, every experience really is an opportunity to learn and grow. It’s for our good. If we choose to let it, our pain and suffering can end up serving us in life. And sharing those growing experiences with others is a gift to them; you may just help them avoid having to learn a lesson the hard way.
This past winter, I went to the doctor for my annual physical and discovered my blood pressure, cholesterol, and the enzymes in my liver were all elevated above normal. In the moment, this felt like a mini mid-life crisis, but it ended up serving me as a warning sign that trouble was ahead if I didn’t adjust my lifestyle. I took it seriously. I increased my cardio, decreased my alcohol consumption, and after some research, I made the switch to a plant-based (or vegan) diet. Today, all of my numbers have returned to normal, I’ve lost 15 pounds, and I have more energy than I’ve had in a few years.
All of these positive changes came about in my life because I got vulnerable with other friends, and shared with them the issues I was facing with my health, and because they shared the lessons they had learned related to health that brought positive results in their life.
Our stories (or our testimonies) hold a transcendent power in them when shared. They can literally save people’s lives when we get vulnerable enough to share our truth with others. And these kinds of life-altering experiences are the kind that form true bonds.
3) Talk less, listen more.
Though it does have it’s place in relationships, people don’t need a ton of advice. They need to be heard. What they need to know is often already inside of them. They just need time to think, and they need someone to help them process it. Respect their individual power enough to let them make mistakes, and learn from them. Be the friend they can count on to create a safe space for them to talk it out, without fear of judgement, belittling, or impatience.
Feelings of shame and fear regarding our struggles lead to disconnection. Courageous vulnerability is not only a healing ointment to our soul, it is a key ingredient in REAL life connections.
Tell me what you learned.
Tell me what good came of your pain.
Tell me how your suffering served you.
Tell me the story of your evolution.
Tell me your truth.
I want to know it too.
~ Joshua Perez