People are irritating, right?
And this is coming from one of the most loving and empathetic people I know (that’s me – yes, I’m saying nice things about myself. And?)
I’ve believed since I was a teenager that I’m on this earth to love. Empathy is one of my superpowers. I was raised in a family who are incredibly skilled and generous with expressions of love.
But. People are still frikn irritating.
I road rage a bit more than I should. I roll my eyes at people too easily. I’m certainly intolerant with my children fairly regularly.
Now that we’ve established the fact that I’m human and imperfect, I have some advice.
Every day in training rooms, my first task is to connect with every person in the room. I believe they can learn better, I can teach better, and we’ll have a more positive experience if we’ve found some way to break down some barriers and feel a bit connected. It’s the purpose of icebreakers (I just puked in my mouth a little bit). It’s just that icebreakers get used badly so most of us hate them.
In every group, there are always 1 or 2 people I have to try a bit harder with. You know those ones you just don’t gel with? Maybe they have a resting bitch face. Or maybe they don’t laugh at your jokes. Or maybe they only give one-word answers or don’t make eye contact. Whatever it is.
To connect, share
The only way I know to get past that is to keep going until I can find a commonality. To find things in common we have to share stuff. If I want people to share stuff, I have to go first. So I’m an oversharer in a training room. Consciously. Purposefully.
You’ll find out that my moko kauae is still fairly new. That I have grandchildren – holy f*ck – and I’m still surprised by that. You’ll find out I live in Hamilton and that we were once the chlamydia capital of New Zealand.
I talk. I share. Until people start to see I’m just human. A bit of a weirdo. Until they see I might have some things about me that are like them.
Then, ask questions
Then I need to ask enough meaningful open-ended questions to give people a chance to share useful stuff with me.
Commonalities we might find:
- things we hate
- activities we love
- embarrassing experiences we can relate to
- schools, towns, countries, trips
If you can connect at a values level, there’s no looking back
The more we talk, the more we share, we inevitably find that we share values. And once you’ve discovered that? Those other difference seem less significant.
You wear a hijab and I wear a moko kauae. Different, right? But both expressions of our identity and the things we believe in. We’re both committed enough to what we believe in to wear it on the outside. To make our beliefs visible in a crowd.
And all of a sudden?
We’re the same. Deep down.
If you want to connect with people, you need to find things in common. Things that build a connection. Do you have a neighbour who pisses you off? Find some things in common. Things you can build on. Connections that will outweigh the irritants. Got a co-worker you want to throat punch? Find commonalities. One of your children who just keeps rubbing you the wrong way? Build on the things you can find in common.
And watch the world get a little bit brighter!