I apologize for referencing a film I just used a few weeks ago, but I was humming the song “Getting To Know You” from The King and I and I was struck by the lyrics.
Getting to know you
Getting to know all about you
Getting to like you
Getting to hope you like me
Getting to know you
Getting to feel free and easy
When I am with you
Getting to know what to say
Haven’t you noticed
Suddenly I’m bright and breezy?
Because of all the beautiful and new
Things I’m learning about you
Day by day
I have been thinking a lot about how community is formed and maintained. I maintain that we need connection and that our social problems are best solved through relational means. How do we connect and form relationships then? That may seem like a silly question, but maybe it isn’t.
According to a Cigna report, half of Americans identify as lonely. Meaning they don’t have meaningful, daily face-to-face social interactions, including an extended conversation with a friend or quality time with family. Since a person’s physical, mental and social health are entirely connected, the lack of human connection leads to a lack of vitality.
If we need human connection, and many of us are not getting enough, how do we increase the likelihood of making and maintaining connections, not just at work, but at home and in the broader community?
I recently made some new friends. We have only known each other for 7 months or so. We were talking the other day and were amazed that we felt like we had been friends for years. As I reflect on what caused our relationship to develop so quickly and so well, I think I can identify a few things that were critical.
Our expectations were realistic.
None of us were expecting the others to fix us, meet some deep need, solve our problems, etc. This may seem obvious; however, many people go into relationships hoping and believing that the other person will complete them in some way. When our expectations go unmet, we often become disillusioned or even angry with the other person. Needs we are not even aware of may be driving our reactions and behaviors. Instead, we should be asking ourselves whether our expectations are realistic and attainable.
We asked each other a lot of questions, then listened to the answers.
Without meaning too, we fell into a habit of taking turns asking questions which the others answered. This resulted in us learning things about each other we may never have known otherwise. We need to recognize that our own fears and internal messages often drive our interpersonal interactions. Without further exploration we may easily misinterpret someone’s words or actions and limit our relationship unnecessarily. The way we were raised, educated, treated and possibly hurt throughout our lives colors the way we view what other people say and do. Successful relationships thrive on being curious about the other person and learning who they are.
We each took responsibility for the relationship and cared for it.
We really haven’t had many disputes or disagreements. This isn’t because there weren’t opportunities, rather it is because we are each willing to take responsibility for the role we play in any difficulty and are willing to compromise and grant grace. I like the line in the song, “Getting to know what to say.” What this lyric tells me is that great relationships aren’t places where you can saying anything you want and expect the other person to take it, rather they are places where you say important things in ways that maintain the message that you care. If each of us puts the relationship in front of “being right” we go a long way to ending problems before they can derail the connection.
We are all practicing self-awareness.
I say practicing because we will always be improving and learning. Knowing what drives you to react and behave in the ways you do improves your ability to adapt in a relationship. Self-awareness helps us be authentic and our true selves, which is a much better basis for a relationship than a false front. Self-awareness enables us to free ourselves of the needs, fears, messages, and unrealistic expectations which otherwise would exert power over us. We are then able to make conscious choices about how we react to and treat people.
One of the downsides of growth in an organization is it becomes impossible to know everyone very well. I wish I could get to know more of our team. I know there are so many fantastic stories and interesting histories. I love our company meetings where at least I get to hear a little about people I don’t know well. I look forward to learning something new about each of you.
Even with our growth though, I know there are many deep friendships being formed all over Kimray. We can never know where being open to learning about another person may lead. Relationship is one of our greatest needs and being relational is a significant part of resolving many of the social problems our society faces. I’m proud that making good friends and caring for relationships is the Kimray Way.