July 19

Intentional Connection pt.1: Creating Connection

“You're either intentionally connecting OR pushing love away”  

~Marilyn Sutherland, Relationship Expert

At our recent Goddess talk with Marilyn Sutherland, we discussed one of my favorite topics, intentional connection. Marilyn spoke about why and how we connect, as well as showing us different ways to build that connection intentionally. In addition, we discussed what happens when we push people away, and the ways in which we may be doing it, without even realizing it!

This was a great conversation with many takeaways for all of the relationships you are in - whether it is an acquaintance or a work colleague, or a partner, spouse or family member. In fact, Marilyn defined intentional connection as a way of building trust, respect, caring and love with the people in your life in all of your relationships, both work and personal.

As the topic suggests, building this connection requires intention. But why would we make such an effort to build these intentional connections in the first place?

Why do we connect?

There are many reasons for building these connections with others. Aside from the fact that as humans, we are relational beings, there are a few reasons that can differentiate why and how we make the connections, and how deep those connections go.

The first is transactional, which can be a more surface level of connection. Transactional connection is all about logistics, and getting things done. We may do this multiple times a day as we purchase items, or even in the workplace. 

Secondly, we can connect to seek attention, to feel seen, heard and known. This can happen when you just want to connect with someone and the desire may or may not lead to a deeper connection.

Thirdly, we can be seeking a deeper connection, where we are building trust and intimacy, and making a relationship richer and stronger. When we do this, we are creating a new future with the person we are connecting with - one where this relationship is important.

Building intentional connections in all spheres of your life is important. So how can you do it?

How to build intentional connection.

One way that connection is built is through conversations - as we coordinate actions and conversations, we build all of the types of connection mentioned above - from the transactional, to the deep intimacy. You can build intentional connection both by reaching out and initiating that connection with someone by making the offer, or by a favorable response when someone reaches out to you to make the request, and you accept it. And once this happens, the conversation is then a cycle of offering and accepting between both parties, as you increase the connection that forms between you in those moments, until the interaction is over. 

Think about a conversation you had with someone you care about. How many times did you repeat the cycle of offering and accepting connections between you? I think of a recent telephone conversation I had with a friend. The cycle began when I saw her number on the phone and I answered it. I was so happy to hear from her, that I wanted to know what was going on with her, and she wanted to know what was going on with me. The cycle of me asking about how things were going with her and listening, and then opening up to her about what was going on with me was a form of intentional connection on both our parts. 

She and I had a wonderful conversation that built a lot of connection, and conversations can do that if carried out intentionally. If there is a break in this process - if one of the participants feels as if they aren’t getting what they need or if the response doesn’t seem related to the offer, then this can cause disconnection or arguments. So be aware of how to intentionally cultivate connection in conversation - even in the face of disagreement.

Channels for communication

There are many ways that we communicate, especially with the technology that is available today. Communication can be verbal, and include speaking, the choice and meaning of words that you are using, tone of voice, sighs or moans, and the written word. Just as important as verbal communication in connection is non-verbal and in fact sometimes verbal communication carries little to no meaning without the non-verbal. Non-verbal includes body language, facial expressions, touching, appearance, eye contact and proximity to name a few. 

Some (Gottman) studies have shown that words like maybe don’t have any meaning on their own, without the non-verbal cues that indicate whether it is positive or negative.  Communication that doesn’t include the non-verbal cues (such as texting, and other digital forms of communication) are best for transactional connections only.

In some spheres, it has become common to connect only using text, and often people don’t understand that the “conversation” they are having via text is purely transactional, instead believing that they are having a genuine connection.

One of the most powerful takeaways I had from the talk was that if you aren’t intentionally connecting with the people in your life, then you are actively pushing them away. There is no middle ground/neutral. Therefore, consider this when you are interacting with others. What type of connection do you want with them? Is it transactional, do you want their attention, or are you seeking a deeper connection? What verbal and non-verbal communication signals are we sending them? And if we aren’t being intentional with our connection, are we aware that we are pushing them away?

In Part 2 of this series, Marilyn discusses how we respond to offers to connect, and how to break out of a cycle of disconnection if we are intentionally or unintentionally pushing others away.