Embrace Vulnerability to Enhance Connection with Others

Photo from tech.co
Photo from tech.co

One of my favorite days of the week is Super Soul Sunday and if you are an Oprah Winfrey fan you know what I am talking about. On Oprah’s network OWN, Sunday is Super Soul Sunday, where she conducts exclusive interviews with some of the top inspirational thinkers, spiritual leaders and authors such as Joel Osteen, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson and Deepok Chopra to name a few.

One of my all-time favorite teachers of the moment is Dr. Brene Brown, researcher and author of the fantastic book Daring Greatly. She has spent the past dozen years studying the concepts of shame and vulnerability as they pertain to connection. She participated in a TED talk back in 2010 on the concept of vulnerability and it has had more than 11 million hits to date. Her talks and research has affected me not only professionally with my connection research but personally as well –so much so I devoted an entire chapter to the topic of shame and vulnerability in my first book, mentioning Brown’s research throughout the entire chapter.

In Oprah’s Lifeclass with Brown last night, she pointed out that to have better connections with others we must allow ourselves to be seen–that is what being vulnerable is about.  It is about being “real” and letting down our guard or veil and showing people who we really are instead of pretending that we are perfect and have everything under control all of the time. Of course, you have to be careful with how much you reveal to someone before you really get to know them but there are ways to find that out fairly quickly. Here are three simple things I do to practice being more vulnerable when meeting new people, which I find has led me to having more authentic connections than ever before.  Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

  1. Smile at someone and say hello even if they seem grumpy and unapproachable. Don’t feel bad if they don’t smile back –feel good that you smiled first
  2. Share something funny that you noticed about your surroundings or a joke you just heard on the radio or on TV last night to someone you barely know even if they don’t laugh at it. Feel good that you have humor in your life.
  3. Share a bit of something personal that is either funny or a lesson learned. Make it  general and see how the person responds. If they have something to add to the topic or follow up with their own story to share, then you know that you can go beyond surface level talk with them. However, if they look at you with a blank stare or respond back in a judgmental way—best not to go deeper than surface level talk with them. But feel good that you showed a more personal side of yourself and seek out those who respond back in a similar way.

Happy Connecting!


Minimizing Your Risk When Starting a New Friendship

Photo from tx.english-ch.com
Photo from tx.english-ch.com

Back in January 2013 after feeling particularly inspired by a friend who was having great success at making new friends and business contacts, I made it a goal of mine to put myself out there more and start making my own new connections. I had moved back to Southern California in 2011 (after being gone for seven years) and was ready to start seeking out new friendships both personally and professionally.

However, when we open up ourselves to people we also become more vulnerable to those who can hurt us emotionally if we are not careful. Now that I know the warning signs, I am having the time of my life establishing new friendships and business relationships not worrying if I will get hurt and growing the ones that show potential like in an earlier post I wrote –Help New Connections Grow.

Tips to Help Reduce Risk of Getting Hurt When Making New Friends

If you are new to your area or have gone through a life transition and wish to get back out there or just desire to make some new positive connections, here are five tips I follow to minimize the risk for getting hurt when I start a new friendship.

  1. Stick to general topics. As they say, in the beginning stay away from religion, politics and anything that you feel overly opinionated about. Treat a new friendship like being on a date—show your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses because the wrong people can use that against you later on.
  2. Look for patterns. Like Dr. Phil says, when people show you who they are, take notice. If someone is joking about what a hot head they are and how people in general always frustrate them that might not be the person you want to hang around with on a regular basis.
  3. Heed warnings from other people. A few years back, I started hanging around a gal who a few people came up to me on the side and told me she had a track record for having big fights with women she got close to. Unfortunately, I continued my friendship with her and sure enough, I got burned from her exactly as the others had told me she would do!
  4. Beware of the instant best friend. Close friendships take time so be wary of the person who is revealing a lot of personal information and wants you to do the same. They have not earned your trust yet and you don’t know them well enough to know their true intentions.
  5. Be wary of the convenient friend. Just because you see someone on a regular basis through perhaps carpooling, sports or a regular event you both attend doesn’t mean you have to be best buddies. Logistics brought you together but it is similar values and complimentary personality traits that will determine if your “friendship” should go any deeper.

Have you been burned in a relationship by going too fast too soon? What warning signs do you look for? Let me know your thoughts!

September is a Good Time to Evaluate Friendships

I personally love when the calendar page turns to September and it is back to school season.

Photo from 123rf.com
Photo from 123rf.com

I think of it as another January – a fresh start for a new year ahead. It is a great opportunity for all of us to take a look at areas in our lives that might need a change up as we enter into a new “school” calendar year.

One area I suggest is your current friendships. Not only your close female friendships but your children’s best friends as well. It is funny how we start friendships with people for different reasons but what might have seemed like a good idea a year ago, may not work for the person you are today. We might like a few aspects of their personality at first and are drawn in but over time when we become closer to them, we may notice that they have mean girl tendencies or like to put us down saying they are “only kidding”. Or perhaps they love to gossip a lot more than just friendly talk of what is going on in someone else’s life—it comes across judgmental and condescending.

I can best describe it as that icky feeling you get in your gut when a friend who you think of one way is showing another side to them that doesn’t fit your vision of how a good friend should be. Yes, no one is perfect and as friends we do disappoint each other from time to time but what I am talking about are all those little things your friend is doing that makes you pause and feel bad—whether they are doing it to you or to someone else. Just as research shows we become better people when we witness others doing good for others, it has the same effect in the opposite way when someone we call a “friend” does things that feel mean, spiteful, rude and uncaring and they do it on a consistent basis.

Photo from sayingimages.com
Photo from sayingimages.com

Keep the Friendships that Make you Feel Good and Minimize the Not-so-Good ones

My advice is to take this new season to look closer at the friendships that leave you with a positive feeling and if you have those that leave you feeling less than that, perhaps this is the time to minimize your interactions with that person. If the relationship is feeling especially toxic to you, it might be best to leave the friendship altogether and I will discuss that in future blog posts. When you do, you leave space for other more positive friendships and that is a good thing. Are there friends you might want to leave behind or others you would like to pursue more? Now might be a good time to consider a change.


No Expiration Date for Meeting your Neighbors

Reaching out to neighbors no matter when you moved in can increase your happiness–don’t let time get in the way of making new connections.
For most people, when you move into a new neighborhood there is that freshness and anticipation of getting to know your neighbors. When we were planning to move from AZ to Orange County in 2011, I had visions of sharing margaritas with my new neighbors on the porch, getting invited to Bunko parties and chatting about the latest with my neighbors when we met up at the mail box.

This is the kind of neighborhood I came from when we lived in Arizona. A neighborhood where there was a neighborhood directory, monthly Bunko parties, twice annual block parties and events planned when someone moved out or celebrated a big birthday. I look back at that now with such fond memories and so much gratitude because I know you don’t find that in every neighborhood in America.

But our family was also in a different place back then and this time when we moved into our new Orange County neighborhood, we had just gone through one of the most challenging periods for our family. It colored how we looked at life and the thought of reaching out to people we didn’t know seemed overwhelming at the time. All we could do was to retreat to our home and heal from it all.

Flash forward 18 months later and we are happy and settled into our new surroundings and things seem more routine but in a good way. And while I did have an opportunity to get to know a few neighbors through my girls’ friends or the ones who lived right next to us, there were some neighbors like the ones across the street who we never got a chance to meet.

Sure we waved to them and said hello but we didn’t get to know them like my daughter did since she knew their son and attended social events at their home. My husband and I instead were cocooning in our home on the weekends.

Never too late to meet Your neighbors
But this past month we were invited to their wedding shower that was at another neighbor’s home (who we knew well) and while I felt awkward to attend after not getting to know them up until that point, this couple could not have been more welcoming and delightful. They came by the following weekend with a thank you note for our gift and treats and we got to know them even better. We liked them a lot and I felt bad that it took so long but I realized that it is never too late to get to know your neighbors.

It sparked a desire in me to facilitate a neighborhood potluck over the summer and some of the other neighbors we met at the party seemed right on board with the idea!

Plan ways to connect that work for your neighborhood
Just because we don’t have a built-in structure to get to know our neighbors like the neighborhood I came from doesn’t mean we can’t set up our own version of one in the neighborhood we are in now. In fact, I also found a great resource called Meet the Neighbors. I found a cute post on ways to connect with your neighbors by pachamama.org. Other than extreme cases, I think knowing your neighbors on some level increases our happiness and makes us feel more connected in the world and that is definitely a good thing!

Photo from pachamama.org

Even when busy, finding time to connect is a must

Finding time to enjoy others in person is just as important as other weekly tasks so keep it fairly high on your priority list.

If you a busy mom like me, it is amazing the things we accomplish in a typical week. Carpools, sports, school performances, meal planning, cleaning—you know the drill. While we are so focused on finding time to do the things that scream at us each week, it’s easy to not plan for soul-enriching activities that we should do too but aren’t in your face saying Me, Me, Me.

Photo from Empowering Network
Photo from Empowering Network

I’m talking about spending time in person with people. Let’s take last week for example. It was crazy busy week for me but there were several events (more than usual) planned to connect with others.

On Tuesday, there were two networking meetings scheduled in one day. It was hectic that morning because I was on a training call and running late to the lunch meeting. As I ran (ok, trotted quickly) from my car to inside of the restaurant and down to the room in the back, my rushed and out of control feeling completely dissolved as I sat down among other female business owners having lunch and started connecting with them.

After the meeting, a few ladies came up to me and said encouraging words about my upcoming workshop and I was able learn more about the attendees’ different businesses on a personal level. That meeting and another event in the evening was just what I needed to give me the energy and creativity to work on my business tasks the rest of the week.

Schedule time for your kids to connect

030The rest of the week  included a happy hour drink with my hubby, a movie date with girlfriends and walking around beautiful Laguna Beach on Saturday with my girls. My sister and niece drove up from San Diego and I loved spending time with her and my girls with their cousin.

Friday night, my younger daughter had friends over after school and later went on a group outing and my older daughter had a few friends for a sleepover.

Whew—that is a whole lotta connecting going on in one week! Was it hectic and things a little less managed (at times way less managed) because of these events–sure it was. So it would have been so easy for me to say no to having my daughter’s friends over or to participate in what I did that week but I am so glad I did. After each meeting, I walked away feeling filled up and joyful. With the right people, we get energy we never knew we had and if we stay in the present moment, it gives us a break from the everyday mundane stuff we have to do each week!