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  • Steven Sutton, LCSW

How to Connect with Other People — Understanding Your Connection Superpowers

If you would like to have more meaningful relationships in your life I have good news for you — developing them is not nearly as complex as you may think. It does require that you embrace some key concepts, understand the tools that will help you achieve your goals, and then practice doing things that cultivate strong connections with others -- even if those practices are outside your comfort zone.

Here’s how it works:

The key concept behind connecting with other people is a combination of two behaviors --

1. Commitment to openness and honesty

2. Getting curious about others.

Consider those traits your superpowers when you intend to make a connection with another person. Each of them is necessary to build a foundation of mutual pursuit, positive regard, and relatable experiences between people.

Mutual pursuit is one of the most common elements people tell me they want in a relationship. It means that both parties are interested and pay attention to the other. Both parties seek one another’s time and attention. It’s a big part of the wonderful feelings associated with early relationship or the "honeymoon phase” when two people are really into one another. Over time, without intentional maintenance, most relationships will develop a pattern with a prominent pursuer and a prominent distancer — which happens for a variety of reasons and no one is to blame. What people recognize as a wonderful part of a great relationship is that both parties happily pursue the other.

Positive regard means that when the parties in a relationship are thinking of one another, they’re mostly focused on admiration and generosity. Positive regard shows up when you give someone the benefit of the doubt. It’s what surfaces when, in the midst of doing something obnoxious, you see the charm in your friend’s behavior. It’s what allows a person to offer another person the chance to make amends. It’s what buoys a relationship when one person is not at their best and the other sees that clearly and doesn’t hold it against their partner.

Relatable experiences are those things, both positive and negative, that give texture to the space between two people. It’s the shared portions of our lives that our friends and loved ones can understand because they have their own personal reference points for our experiences. Maintaining positive regard for someone, while relating to their experience, is one of the more powerful ways of cultivating a sense of connection to another human being.

If you’re interested in practicing the two superpowers involved with connecting to others keep reading the next few posts and we’ll explore them more. Stay tuned!

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