Connecting to others – really connecting in a way that is more than just on the surface is becoming an increasing challenge for so many of us. This is, particularly in today’s busy world. You would think that it would be easier.
We have so many new technological means and devices to help us “connect,” but increasingly myself, and others I know, are seriously wondering if all these gadgets and social media are really serving the purposes we hoped would bring us closer.
A Growing Problem
Certainly, they do on a superficial level. Reading someone’s Facebook status updates, or tweets, or Instagram posts, even Snapchat, helps us to peer into each other’s lives and form an impression for ourselves about who they are and how they are doing.
There’s a problem though. Short and sweet text messages to our friends or a quick tweet in reply to a comment are actually now passing as official communications. They are becoming a form of “pseudo-relational short-hand.” Now we rely on brief, and sometimes terse words or a couple of sentences to serve as our primary our communications. It’s a bit too impersonal for many, and it seems to me that this level of informality has started to overtake our society. The result is that we simply aren’t talking with each other as much.
I have clients who are now bringing relationship challenges to me that relate specifically to this phenomenon. People are beginning to complain about experiencing more superficial and less deep connections with others. This is actually fueling feelings of separation and loneliness, and these emotions are painful.
What To Do
There is a very simple thing we can do about this; in fact, almost TOO easy. So simple in fact, you may not even have thought of it!
Are you ready for it?
Try this one thing the next time you are talking or texting someone: Make a simple, and conscious choice to actually speak their name when you’re talking to them.
I know, crazy.
This, often neglected but vital, piece of our communications has been lost on so many of us. Think about it. Do you make it a point to actually use someone’s name when you are communicating with them? Do they use your name? (It goes both ways.)
How Does It Feel?
How do you feel when someone uses your name in a conversation? How might they feel? Pause for a minute and think about just who you consistently call by their name (when they aren’t in trouble). Someone? Anyone? No one?
Is this familiar: You walk into someone’s cubicle at work. Do you greet them with, “Hi, Mark. Can you please do X for me?” Or do you just say, “Hi,” and carry on with your request?
At home, do you greet your husband or wife when they get home with, “Hi Jim,” or “Hey Susan! I’m glad to see you!” Or is it simply a greeting of, “Hey babe.”
When you get mad or are facing a deadline and in full delegation mode, though, I bet you use names! I know I am much more apt to say, “Eileen, I think it’s time to go now” rather than, “We need to go NOW!”
Yes, it takes practice. Bringing back name-calling (in the right way) can be a bit of a chore in the beginning. It’s going to feel awkward at first since it’s a habit as much as anything else.
Why This Works
Research using MRI has shown us that specific parts of our brain, including the middle frontal cortex, are activated differently when we hear our own name, other people’s names (or no name). That “different” activation triggers the part of the brain that acknowledges ourselves and the other person.
So, when we hear our name used in a nice way, certain pleasure centers of the brain are activated and the “happy” neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin are released. Just hearing our name produces pleasure.
In other words, when we use someone’s name when speaking to them, their brain says, “Oh, you’re talking to ME. Like, me – me.” And responds with a sort of, “Okay, you’re relating to me more personally because you are using my name. This feels good. You’ve got my attention! I’m listening.”
So, when we use the person’s name when talking with them, you’re introducing more of a personal touch to the conversation. Personal attention, closer connection, and to be heard or seen. And that’s what we all want in the end, right? This is so personally basic to our fundamental needs.
Make An Intention To Be More Personal
Make an intention to start using people’s names when you talk with them in person, on the phone, and in whatever forms of social media you use. I challenge you to first notice when you missed a chance to use someone’s name. Then the next time, use it. And, smile. All of this can happen in just seconds.
What actually happened when you use the person’s name? Did the tone of your conversation feel more personal or less personal? Do you notice any changes in eye contact, attention, responsiveness, a degree of closeness?
Give this a shot and in small but meaningful ways you may very well begin having more connection in your own life – simply by using a person’s name! Again, be prepared to feel a bit awkward at first, but also be prepared for some pleasant reactions.
If you are seeking more ways to achieve connection with those you love or the world in general, I would enjoy meeting you. Please call or email me and we can set up a time to explore more about how to establish, maintain, and expand your ability to connect with others!