How to make strong emotional connections
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart”
- Helen Keller
Do you have trouble connecting with someone emotionally?
One bad habit that we regularly fall into is forgetting or actively choosing to lose our emotional connections with friends, colleagues, and families during tough times. It’s not that we don’t love them anymore, but the complexities of human emotions get the better of us.
If only there were some brain hacks to make our connections easier.
Science says there are.
With the help of eye contacts, active listening, and mantras that fosters empathy, we can stay up to date with our kin, and create new deep connections.
Let’s dive in. 🌊
1. The Magic of Eye Contact
“Eyes are the windows to the soul.”
- William Shakespeare
Eye contacts are special.
Countless studies have shown that “eye contact activates the social brain, the neural regions that orchestrate our responses to other people.” It is an important way “we share intention and emotion, and it requires that you synchronize eye movements with someone else.”
However, we have a bad habit of forgetting this important technique. Even with our loved ones, we tend to look away because it’s uncomfortable.
A new study from Japan has utilized brain imaging to show that eye contacts activated the “set of brain areas that are active when we move any part of the body (including the eyes) and when we observe someone else doing the same”. In simple terms, eye contacts were essential for our capacity to be empathetic.
Of course, eye contacts don’t magically make you closer to other people. But it “primes their brain” for a deeper and open conversation.
So, next time you want to connect with someone, start by matching their gaze.
Follow their eye movements
If they look away, look away to make them feel comfortable
Don't just stare
2. Active listening “Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another which both attracts and heals.”
- L. J. Isham
Are you a good listener?
Studies have shown that most people think that they are. Here are some old ideas of being a good listener and potential bad habits that we practice far too often.
Not talking, ever
Making facial expressions and verbal sounds (“Mmm-hmm”)
Repeating what others have said, practically word-for-word
While the above techniques work to a certain degree, to be considered a great listener, or someone to talk to, there are levels beyond being a ROBOT.
According to Harvard’s analysis of 3,492 participants in a development program to be better managers, the top 5% were active listeners who interacted with a conversation.
So let’s consider the levels of active listening that you can train your brain for.
Empathize. e.g.) “That must have been difficult”
80:20 rule: Speak 20% of the time
*Asking insightful, good, but non-critical questions
*Help the speaker see their issue in a new light
It's important to be involved in a conversation. And the last two asterisks are the final stages of active listening. Some have a bad habit of skipping the early connections and going straight into them. I advise you to scale slowly and get the speakers’ subconscious approval to be more personal.
Why go through all this hassle? Well, if you become an active listener, people might stay closer to you, which increases your positive emotions for well-being. Be fulfilled.
3. Mantra and Empathy
“Remember to delight yourself first, then others can be truly delighted."
Techniques are great. But how can we stay on our A-game and not let our bad habits and anxiety get in our way.
You need a mantra
No, we're not talking about a meditation retreat. A mantra can simply be a word or short phrases that can help you to affirm and accomplish your objective.
For example. Let’s say you want to empathize with your partner, but you feel burned out. Choosing the word “connect” and repeating it as many times as possible can help you empathize more. Also, before an important meeting, you could repeat “active listening” to remember this article!
According to one Swedish research, the default mode network, an area that’s responsible for mental background chatter, nervousness, and mind wandering, was deactivated in participants that focused on mantra meditation.
So pick a mantra for specific conditions. Each serves a different purpose. Affirm regularly and make sure you are on your A-game to connect.
Eye contacts - Active listening - Mantras
“Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.”
Here’s the recap
Match the speaker’s gaze and comfort
Actively listen and avoid being a robot
Find mantras that fit different situations and make it a habit
Start with the above to make better emotional connections. They are quick, easy, and don’t cost a dime.