#45 Make Eye Contact

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#45

Make Eye Contact

How did you feel the last time you talked with someone who didn’t make eye contact with you? Were you left wanting more? Suspicious? Disbelieving? It turns out that making eye contact during conversations is a type of communication in and of itself.

Positive characteristics

It’s a social skill. It’s good manners. It’s a sign of interest and attention. Indeed, according to the research, people who are able to make and sustain eye contact are perceived as more dominant, powerful, warm and personable, qualified, trustworthy, honest, confident and emotionally stable. Who wouldn’t want to be associated with those characteristics?

Positive Consequences

People who engage in direct eye contact make more sales, date more frequently, and report more satisfactory interpersonal interactions. Each one of these consequences can improve the quality of our lives. It’s postulated that our eyes are have evolved specifically to assist in our ability to communicate.

Communication

Indeed, they contribute individually and specifically to non-verbal communication. “I saw it in his eyes” or “Her eyes told the story”…. Statements that describe a ‘look’ we can all relate to. Our eyes convey attention. We are more apt to listen to people who are looking directly at us and we will feel more intimately connected when making eye contact with other people. Intimate connections convey trust and belonging.

Difficulties

People who find it hard to make direct eye contact with others may be challenged in a variety of areas. It’s very difficult to keep a gaze when we are being dishonest. Darting eyes can be an indication of a false story. People who are fearful of being judged may also find it hard to make eye contact. And, because our eyes communicate so much information, people who are masking emotion may not allow themselves to make eye contact for fear that their eyes will disclose too much information.

Work on It

If you find it difficult to make eye contact – ask yourself why. Perhaps it would be helpful to seek guidance for any insecurities or fear. If you realize that your effort to avert a gaze is simply a bad habit, make a conscious effort to work on it. Eye contact can be overdone, it’s not natural to stare constantly at someone so practice moving your eyes aside from time to time; side to side movement is the least disruptive to communication.

If you want to improve your connections, your communication, and ultimately your confidence…

Make eye contact.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#47 Ask More Open-ended Questions

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#47

Ask More Open-ended Questions

How many times have you asked the question “Did you have a good day?” – receive a “yes” and then felt disappointed because you got a one word answer? Frankly, you asked a one work question and set yourself up for the disappointment. Getting in the habit of changing the way you ask questions will most likely dramatically change the answers – and therefore, the information – you receive; giving depth to your conversations.

“Tell me about your day, what was good about it?”

“What was the best part of your day?”

“What are you plans tomorrow?”

“Why are you irritated?”

Asking questions that start with who, what, where, when, why, & how are always going to require more than a one word answer and will generally give you the information you seek. They are conversation questions and when you keep them going, so too… does the conversation.

Depth

Open-ended questions require more thought to answer and generally elicit responses that move beyond the surface, deepening the connection between those who are speaking or at least, providing more detail. They are one of the keys to better communication and feelings of belonging.

Dinner Convo

I find this helpful when talking with kids – especially teens – who are short on describing activities, thoughts, and feelings; especially with parents. Dinner conversations are much more interesting when we ask “If you could redo any part of your day – what would it be?” or “What are you looking forward to tomorrow?”

We may feel as though our conversations aren’t fulfilling without conscious regard to the way we are asking questions.  A quick and simple effort to ask for information differently will dynamically change the way you interact; all because you…

Ask more open-ended questions.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

#57 Visit a Zoo

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#57

Visit a Zoo

I was able to walk through the Central Park Zoo on a warm spring day last year and really loved being there. The last Zoo I had visited was when the kids were young and we had an annual pass to the Philadelphia Zoo which, after falling in love with the San Diego Zoo… was a disappointment. We bought the annual passes because I am a big believer in educating children about animals, especially those that aren’t house pets.

Controversy

Zoo’s have had a difficult time in recent years. There was a lot of publicity about the mistreatment of animals, poor conditions, and lack of funding for several zoos across the country – leading a lot of people to abandon the idea of visiting animals there. It was a difficult decision to support an endeavor that wasn’t meeting minimum standards versus being there to send loving energy their way and introducing a younger generation to the benefits of saving endangered species.

Benefits

When a zoo is managed and funded efficiently, it offers a plethora of benefits both to the animals there and to the surrounding society.

Zoos connect animals to people in a way that is no longer viable in most urban cultures. We simply don’t get the opportunity to see Buffalo, Elk, or Giraffes running across our sight line. Indeed, we barely see turtles and fox unless you live close to farms and water. Visiting a zoo offers you an opportunity to experience this life form no matter your environment.

Zoos fight against wildlife extinction. They are staffed by professionals committed to the survival and propagation of species. They often collaborate with one another to solve urbanization issues that prevent the animals from organically sustaining their population.

Zoos educate the public and seek to attract benefactors that are committed to helping and sponsoring continued advocacy. The inspire children, teach differences, and motivate respect for animals in general.

Time spent

Of course, spending time at a zoo is a great family activity. There are usually wonderful programs to take advantage of and it just nice to stroll through the property to see something new and different than before. Being in a zoo can be a ‘getting back to nature’ in an odd sort of way; there’s always a little dichotomy to this as you walk from one kind of habitat to another. It may challenge your senses.

Being in a zoo as a single individual may offer you some great ‘me time’… time away from civilization but inside the energy of living beings. It can provide an opportunity to sit back and savor the simplicity of a lions walk across the stone or to observe the complicated maneuvers of barn swallows as they nest in the rafters of an Avian center.

Modern Energy

After the horrific zoo experiences identified in the past, I believe we’ve come to a better place and the zoo’s of America are a thoughtful, instructional, and compassionate playground for animals that people get to enjoy. If you haven’t been in a while, go ahead and treat yourself – if not your entire family and …

Visit a Zoo.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

#69 Send a Card of Connection

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#69

Send a Card of Connection

Several years ago I befriended – via an interesting set of circumstances – a resident of a nursing home who had no known living relatives. She is a sweet old lady (now 92) with a very simple life who dedicated her career to pediatric nursing. Today, her memory isn’t very sharp and she sometimes receives cards from people who have passed through the nursing home; prior roommate family members, employees who came to love her, or strangers who’ve heard of her story through the Facebook page I made for her years ago. It is the highlight of her day. She calls me with sheer delight to ask me who the person is that sent the card. Even if I don’t know, she pins it to her bulletin board and adds the address to her little book so she can send a Christmas card the following year.

This tiny little act of kindness impacts the entire day in the most positive way by connecting her to the outside world.

There are thousands of people, maybe tens of thousands, like my friend who would love to get something in the mail even if they don’t know you. Some of our relatives, our neighbors, and our friends may also fall into this category; people who could use a little pick-me-up. Churches and nursing homes know of dozens of people who could benefit from receiving a little sunshine in the form of a card. If you don’t want to be identified, it could be an anonymous message: “Here’s hoping your day is filled with light.~ a caring stranger”.

This idea isn’t so creepy or strange. It is in line with the program that encourages us to send Christmas cards to soldiers or care packages serving overseas. This act of kindness sends the message that “the world hasn’t forgotten about you”, “someone cares that you’re still here’, and/or “you still matter”. Who can’t benefit from that kind of reminder?

Doing something nice – positively affecting the life of another – offering a little encouragement… These things make a difference for you and the receiving person. The energy behind kindness is long lasting on both ends. The effort is small, the cost is minimal, yet the reward is great when you…

Send a card of connection.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#107 Have a Girls/Guys Weekend

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#107

Have a Girls/Guys Weekend

Yesterday’s post – recommending that we occasionally ask for a hug – spoke to the importance of feeling connected – to  having a sense of belonging. This suggestion is another that will help foster the sensation of ‘belonging’ by bringing together those people that constitute our tribe.

Early Start

We may start developing the need to surround ourselves with favorite peeps as early as those playgroups that mom drug us to. For others, that desire began in daycare or school but either way – it only blossoms. Soon, we are asking for sleepovers and ‘hanging out’; we want to be encircled by other like-minded souls as often as possible. This is especially true through adolescence when we begin discovering how we are different from our family of origin and downright ‘need’ the sense of sameness.

Grown-up Play Dates

Our need for friendship and belonging doesn’t change as we mature. It does however, become more difficult to get those needs met as we marry, have children, full-time jobs and the daily responsibilities of home life. Our giggling late night conversations with our best friends are few and far between. Those nights that metaphorically ‘fill our gas tank’ are rare unless we make them happen. Hence, the need to have a girls or guys weekend.

Keep it Simple

While it’s great to get out and ‘do’ things while you’re with friends, some of the best parts of a friend weekend is to keep it simple. Life is busy enough as it is so a getaway weekend may best be served by taking it easy next to a beach, swimming pool, or fireplace with a bottle of wine or a bowl of popcorn. If there is too much planned activity, there may not be room for the conversations and connection for which the weekend was designed.

Likewise, the goal is friendship and bond strengthening so it can be short and inexpensive – one night at a campground; or longer and deluxe – a long weekend in Cabo. It can be just one friend or a dozen as long as drama, personality differences, and complaints stay home.

Gender differences

Generally, men like to ‘do’ things and can find comradery in building a barn, hunting, skiing, or gaming. Indeed – plenty of gents splurge on annual outings for many of those reasons and for some, it’s the only real ‘friend’ time they get during the year as family responsibilities prevail. Women seem to be better at planning short and sweet visits together more often, saving the long and expensive trips to enjoy with their significant others.

No matter the style, budget, or program – fostering, building, and strengthening a sense of belonging is the ultimate goal when you make plans to …

Have a Girls/Guys Weekend

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

#108 Ask for a Hug

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#108

Ask for a hug

Connection is one of the most fundamental needs that a human being requires for survival. In fact, researchers in Chicago have postulated that not feeling connected to a ‘tribe’ may be more devastating to our life expectancy than smoking or obesity. There may be no better way to signify a connection than by hugging.

Often these days, we are racing around attempting to complete our own agenda and don’t take the time to stop and consider those around us. Consequently, we may fail to notice that people in our circle – our tribe – our family, are feeling disconnected from us. We may not feel comfortable speaking out when we are the ones feeling on the outskirts. And so it goes… we brush past one another, maybe with a smile but disengaged from a sense of belonging.

Take the Lead

It is during those times that it becomes imperative to ‘ask for a hug’. Whether you’re the one feeling disconnected or you are noticing that someone appears to be detached or unplugged from the group/family. Either we notice that we are in need or there is someone in our tribe that can tell we are deficient. Either way, the gesture of a hug will likely break the isolation and pull us into at least a temporary circle of comfort.

Benefits

Because a hug can generate that sense of belonging and compassion, it fosters calm. It allows us to feel protected – if even only for that moment. Consequently, our immune system may function better, our fear is reduced, and we may feel happier. More hugging may help with heart health, depression, anxiety, and overall life satisfaction.

That’s a lot of benefit just because we took the time to think about our needs and …

Ask for a hug.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#116 Give Someone a Back Rub

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#116

Give someone a back rub

Remember that saying “it’s better to give than to receive”? While most people I know enjoy receiving a back rub, it’s also quite nice to earnestly give one.

Aside from foreplay

Back in the day – before ‘hookups’ were a truly a casual thing, this is the ‘intimate gesture’ that often served as a ‘hint’ that more touching might be welcomed – at least in my experience – although the initiation of sex is NOT what this suggestion is really about.

Intimacy

When we gently and slowly massage the bare skin of another human that we feel connected to, it can be a very intimate experience. This exercise is encouraged as a way to build physical intimacy with someone without the expectation or culmination of sexual activity (although if you are moved… by all means).

How To

When I make this suggestion in couples therapy, I will sometimes hear resistance by an individuals declaration that they have weak hands and I send them directly to the internet to learn how to give a back rub. It turns out that strong hands are not a requirement for a relaxing, stress reducing, or even a seductive back rub. They may be if you are seeking sore muscle treatment in which case, see a trained massage therapist. Indeed, a good back rub is more about the caress of the skin, slight pressure moving in a particular direction, and the intention of the touch. Most anyone can give a good back rub with a bit of practice.

Benefits

At first glance, one might think that the receiver is the only one who tends to benefit from a back rub but for the giver – there’s opportunity as well. Making a connection with someone you care about may be the most obvious. Making the time for your friend or partner let’s them know you put them first from time to time and that gesture reinforces the relationship you are also a part of. Initiating a selfless gesture of providing pleasure to someone you care for keeps you grounded and focused beyond only your needs, encouraging a Eudamonic sense of well-being. The act of physically touching another person with compassion and gentleness can be physically (not sexual) pleasurable for you as well. Indeed, there’s hardly a downside when you make the effort to …

Give someone a back rub.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#213 Snuggle

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#213

Snuggle

Who doesn’t love to snuggle? From the time we are born, one of the ways that we experience connection and belonging is to get our body up close and connected to another person. Snuggling is NOT sex… it’s sharing personal space with another warm body – human or animal friend. It’s connecting – heartbeat to heartbeat – with another being to remind us that we are not alone in the world, that we are more than just ourselves. It’s part of what keeps us grounded and produces sensations of ‘existential significance’ – a feeling of having a purpose.

Snuggling comes with benefits

Spending as little as FIVE minutes a day cuddling with another being will stimulate an increase in the three primary emotional health hormones: Oxytocin, Dopamine, & Serotonin. Between the three of them, benefits include prevention of depression, loneliness, anxiety, and high blood pressure. They improve your immune system, lower your heart rate, and stimulate your metabolism. All together, they relax you and induce smiling.

Snuggle buddy

If you wake up next to someone each day – try to commit to 5 min either in the morning or the evening to cuddle together (without anticipation of sex) and no conversation. This is just time for the two of you to experience the life force of one another, to feel connected, and to be present with one another. If you sleep alone most of the time, then take 5 min a day to snuggle with a child (yours or someone in your care) or an animal friend. Cats and dogs are great snugglers (well… some cats.) and the living energy that exists in them can still mingle with yours for the existential benefit of realizing that you are not here alone.

Being present

In addition to all of the ‘connection’ elements associated with snuggling and their benefits, the ability for us to be still and present for 5 minutes a day has its own associated perks. In that small allotted time, nothing else matters and we are able to feel centered in our space. For those few moments, the pressures of the world are quiet. Breathe in the stillness and allow it to settle in your soul. Allow yourself to take the time to…

Snuggle.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#229 Chat with a random Stranger

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#229

Chat with a Random Stranger

Disconnect

We live in a world that while connected via radio waves and fiber optic cables, is often disconnected from an interpersonal perspective. We walk around with cell phones and headphones, attending to email, social media, and news headlines rather than the space in which we stand. Most of us can find ourselves standing next to a stranger at some point during the day with barely a glance to recognize their presence there; the ghostly whisper of our mothers “don’t talk to strangers” mantra reverberating ever so slightly through our memory.

Connect

If we take time to bring ourselves into the present moment while we run our errands, grab our lunch, or wait for transportation, we can simultaneously take time to appreciate the people in our periphery. Why not go one step further and connect with one of the other human beings close by? A simple comment of “that color looks great on you” or “I love your haircut” may be just the thing that person needs to counterbalance a negative from earlier in the day. The few seconds you take to actually connect to someone benefits you too.

Thrive

Social connection is linked to happiness, personal thriving, and longevity. It seems that even the simple act of acknowledging that we are not isolated – even if we don’t know or aren’t friends with people – can improve our state of mind. If we look up and acknowledge others in our environment for even a brief interaction, our brains interpret connectivity. The truth is, we aren’t isolated anywhere but in our minds. At any given point, most of us can walk out our door, down the sidewalk and connect with a human being in some kind of way – IF we choose.

Lessons from Childhood

The premise is simple and mostly likely etched in your memory somewhere because children do this naturally. (Another example of something innate that we ‘unlearn’.) Children – completely unknown to one another – will engage on a playground within minutes of being there. In no time at all, they are introducing themselves and cooperating to extend their enjoyment.

Make a pledge to yourself to disarm those adult hesitations, break away from your distractions, and be present the next time you find yourself in a line, a group, or a crowd and make the effort to …

Talk to a random stranger.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

Photo by Simon Shim on Unsplash