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The Art of Human Connection: Understanding Yourself through Others

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Self-awareness does not merely come from sitting alone in your room in quiet. Curiously, I had found my own understanding of myself unexpectedly furthered by a wholehearted willingness to understand others. I will show you how understanding others can lead to a very good understanding of yourself.

A true understanding of others is created through an open-minded, nonjudgmental, genuine curiosity of another’s world. Open-mindedness and non-judgment are qualities that I do my best to embody as a life coach. When I am “in the zone” as I listen to my clients with these qualities, they feel safe and free to reveal their true selves. However, I find when this happens, not only do they find a deeper connection with their true selves, but I find it with my own true self as well.

In my earliest sessions with clients, I intended to “help” the other person. However, after more experience I realized I was learning as much from them as they are from me. What comes out of the sessions is a synergy of two great minds, and both come out equally empowered from our interactions. What I provided was the right environment for this to happen.

In a world beset by people being defined by their professions and status symbols, we feel like we have to hide ourselves under the mask of what we do. “What we do” is exactly what separates us. It is only a superficial label of who we are that distinguishes us from others. It is a very quick way for others to assess you, and highly inaccurate.

You can be a pilot, but saying that you are does not nearly convey the experience of flying an airplane, or even whether that is something you are passionate about. Instead, the first thing people might think about is how cool it looks (from the outside), or wonder how much you make. This does not mean we should not mention what we do (whether it is a job or not), but that is much less significant than knowing why and how we do it, what drives our souls to do it, and the experiences we had along the way.

When we can listen to others with open-mindedness, non-judgment, and curiosity, this façade of “What do I do?” dissipates. This is because others can see that you are not there to evaluate them and put them in a box, but to qualitatively understand their life experience and thereby have a true connection. We learn about why the person does what he does, and it does not even have to be a profession.

What everyone has in common is that there is something they love or care for, our emotions, and our vulnerabilities. What we fear or hope for, and what challenges us in life all may be different, but the very fact we have these emotions and that we all had challenges is what unites us. If someone bragged on about their accomplishments, do you feel any more connected to them? When you reveal your vulnerabilities, you remind them and yourself it is okay to be human.

This does not mean we should take over the conversation talking our vulnerabilities. We also share what we are happy about, and what we are proud of in ourselves and what we aspire to be, without being arrogant. We give people equal time to express themselves. What it boils down to is that we are authentic, that we present our treasures and troubles just as they are, without caricature.  A truer picture is balanced rather than merely dark or light, something I work with in revealing in those I work with.

Time alone by oneself is wonderful for self-awareness, but deeply connecting with others is just as self-revealing. This is done through asking others open-ended questions, expressing genuine care and curiosity, and sharing what makes you human. You will find there is a wealth of journeys, but they all have their commonality. It is experiencing commonality through human connection that lets you into your authentic self.

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  1. I transitioned out of being the person who held onto his thoughts and mulling them over while “half listening” and waiting for an opening to interject my ‘defining’ thoughts into the conversation. I can say w/ certainty that that methodology is not a good way to expand horizons and get out of ruts caused by insestuous thinking. What a pleasure it has been to be a listener wo’s thoughts are free to be guided by the ideas of others. This behavior changed after I identified it, consciously modified it and let my own sense of superior importance go.

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