I was at the Laundromat by 7am this morning because I still needed to get to the gym and then work a double shift at one of my two jobs. The only other person there was a heavier woman organizing dry cleaning for the day. I threw my wash in and politely asked her if she could watch my bag while I ran to grab some coffee. Her face lit up at the word coffee. I can relate. She jotted down her mocha latte order and gave me money and I walked the couple blocks to Dunkin Donuts, happy to help another person. I remembered times as a manager at Hollister that I would send my employees off to DD to bring back coffee and donuts for everyone. When I got back, Jill (her name) and I had a 20-minute conversation about coffee, busses, and minimum wage jobs. We talked about things we connected on and could relate to. We established a connection when only an hour before we had been complete strangers to each other.
A little later I was safely seated on Bus 30 on my way to the gym. I like to fill my travel time with more than music so I turned on one of my podcasts. Coincidentally or serendipitously, depending on your optimism, it was about connecting with people. Specifically, the talk concerned the instant connections in daily interaction that are more impactful in the long-term than we think. The podcast brought up three factors associated with connecting with other people.
The first of these was vulnerability. If you want to break down the façade of a ‘keeping up the with the Jones’ attitude, bring up a weakness of yours. Friendship is made in the moment that one person says, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” According to this talk, bosses and leaders are trusted much more when they show some vulnerability to their employees. Examples? Yesterday I got coffee at Starbucks from a nice young girl. While giving me my change, she knocked over a small display and blushed with embarrassment. I immediately said, “Don’t worry, I’m probably more clumsy than you on a daily basis.” She smiled and told me she had already poured coffee on a customer that morning- she wins. INSTANT CONNECTION. My mother related a story of a waiter she had two nights ago. After he dropped off the food he said to raise a hand if she needed anything else because he “wasn’t very attentive and it was busy; but he wanted to make sure she was taken care of.” That vulnerability gained the waiter a good tip and trust from my mother. It also had nothing to do with his service or the restaurant’s reputation.
The second factor discussed was touch. Touch has been long displaced in our digital world and culture. It has not been replaced though. The speaker brought six volunteers from the audience to sit in a circle as if they were having a meeting. They instinctively sat about arms length apart and began by personal introductions. He then told them to move closer to each other until their very knees were touching. “Now what did you have for breakfast?” The group went around again, knees touching, and he asked them how they felt immediately after. You guessed it. Each felt much stronger connection to the person next to them. The NBA conducted a study on all teams’ group interaction throughout a season. They specifically monitored how many times individuals touched each other through high fives, celebrations, or huddles. They found a direct correlation on the season between winning percentage and amount of touching involved on the team. Crazy right? My guess, and it is only a guess, is that maybe there is some subconscious trust involved. Touch may trigger a sense of trust. A teammate passes you a ball because he’s more confident you will catch it and you trust that he is a more able passer and that it will be catchable. It’s only a guess at our subconscious but you’ve probably heard the phrase, “90% of the game is mental.”
The third and final factor concerns people who are born with this as a natural trait. These people are referred to as high self-monitors. These people naturally meet us where we are instead of bringing us to where they are. We are inclined to naturally like these people because they mirror us. When I was just a kid my dad asked me what type of person I am: a nerd, a jock, a hipster, or my own category. As a confident 11 year-old, I responded with, “Depends on who I’m around.” He and my brother got a big laugh out of that but I felt embarrassed. I had responded truthfully. I have not thought about that again until I heard this speaker bring it up. It’s not that high self-monitors are schmoozers or fake. They simply have the ability to mirror their environment in a fluid fashion. These people make these instant connections much faster than others under similar circumstances. How interesting! Not only with a genuine interest in others help create relationships but it can be helped by these other tools. Vulnerability and weakness inspires almost instant trust. Touch and proximity can be a major factor in collaboration. It’s the reason why face-to-face interaction is so much more powerful than any Skype or conference call will ever be. Finally, certain people are born as high-self monitors. These people create instant connections because of their ability to mirror people and situations. Some food for thought. Hopefully it was interesting if you chose to read it. This is the stuff I LOVE J