Getting Your Connection Tune-Up

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I always appreciate getting the card in the mail from Midas alerting me that it’s time for my vehicle’s oil change and tire rotation. It’s too easy to let ordinary maintenance fall by the wayside when other pressing matters intervene. That Midas reminder galvanizes me to action — and my car keeps on running smoothly.

Wouldn’t it be great if we got a regular reminder that we need a connection tune-up? Sure, we know it’s good for us to be in touch and around others. But how often do we let the challenges of life – Covid, family, job, alarming news headlines, health and more – delay or disrupt our need to connect? Probably more than we would like to admit.

If we needed any additional evidence that we are hardwired for connection, the pandemic has proven it. Countless stories in the media remind us of the negative impacts of distance learning on children, nonstop zoom meetings for adults, and physical isolation for seniors and the ill.

In a recent New York Times Magazine article, the author posed three interesting questions about loneliness and connection:

1) How many close friends and relatives do you have with whom you feel at ease and can discuss private matters?

2) How many of them do you see at least once a month?

3) Do you participate in any groups?

These questions and more are used by physicians to assess whether people are disconnected.   If you have fewer than six confidants, live alone, and have no involvement in group activities, it is deemed you are “socially isolated”.

Last year at the start of the pandemic and during lockdowns last April, Northeastern University conducted a national survey asking participants even more in-depth questions:

1) How many people in your circle would care for you if you were sick?

2) Do you have anyone who would lend you money if you were desperate?

3) Who would you talk to if you had a problem or were feeling anxious?

4) Is there anyone who would help you find a job?

When I read these questions, I immediately started making lists. It was eye-opening to see who and where my connections are.  The number we have and the effort we put into maintaining our relationships is key to our physical, emotional, and mental health.

Think back to the car tune-up. Without proper maintenance, the car may still run, but its parts will wear out sooner, it may have an emergency need for service, and ultimately it won’t be reliable as a means of transportation.

So what to do?

Here are three tips to make sure you are regularly thinking about how to be connected:

1) Take inventory. Who are your closest, most dependable connections? It may be family, friends, work colleagues, or neighbors. Lucky you if you have them all. Some people are surrounded by lots of people, both figuratively and physically. If you are, good for you! If not — and a lot of us are not — figure out how to fill in the gaps. And don’t be shy asking others to help.

2) Make a plan.  How can you build new authentic connections? Start small. You don’t have to rebuild the car transmission or remodel the chassis. What you do need to do is not let slide the steps to get going.  As an example, I try to connect with two new people a week. I always don’t hit my goal, but sometimes I far exceed it. How do I do it? I use Linked In, I ask friends for introductions, and I keep my eyes out for meeting people in the course of every day.

3) Nurture existing connections. Are you guilty of letting important relationships slide? Face it, we all feel guilty if we haven’t been in touch for awhile. But 99% of people are thrilled to hear from you, no matter how long it’s been. Figure out who you want to reconnect with and make it happen. The rewards will likely be worth your investment of time.

I am betting if you make connecting a priority, you will feel healthier, happier, and more able to weather life’s challenges. Sending you a virtual connection tune-up reminder today!

Author

  • A seasoned executive in the nonprofit world, Ann Louden is the founder and CEO of Ann Louden Strategy and Consulting. Recognized for her expertise in fund raising, high profile special events, and campaign planning, Ann provides counsel to chief executives, staff, and volunteer leadership. Ann’s primary interest areas are education, health care for women and children, the arts, and adoption. As a cancer survivor, she led and was the twelve-year spokesperson for a breast cancer advocacy initiative that engaged thousands of survivors, volunteers and medical providers. With a mantra of bringing big ideas to life, Ann focuses on identifying a compelling vision and creating a goals-oriented plan for execution. An in-demand national speaker for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Ann is the recipient of the Steuben Excellence in Teaching Award and has been named as a CASE Laureate. She is the author of the upcoming book: From Social Courage to Connection: Lessons from Leaders Who Change and Save Lives. You can find her at www.AnnLouden.com.

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