Let’s talk about connections. Not the kind we prefer to avoid when traveling. The human kind. Human connections take a variety of shapes throughout life. These shapes tend to change with each day or maybe they change with each relationship. What I know for sure is my number of connections, defined by me as genuine and valued two-way interactions with human beings, has waned over the years. I am not sure this is necessarily a bad thing or even unnatural. Interestingly enough, I don’t feel these connections are due to losing friendships or making fewer new friends. The downward trend, possibly only in my head, seems to me to be caused by a few factors.
1. Phase of Life – not quite at half life but far enough along where I know the difference between a high quality relationship and one light on quality. I’m definitely focusing more on quality than quantity. Plus having kids splits focus dramatically from the BK (before kids) days.
2. Technology – sadly, I spend more time on technology than ever before. Honestly, much of this is not very productive time. This takes time away from true connections. Plus quick texts and social media interactions can trick me into thinking I’ve connected when in hindsight I’ve done almost the opposite of connecting with humans this way.
3. Personality – while not exactly a hermit, I am more prone with age to look for more ways to capture those quiet moments on our back porch just looking at the trees. These are moments that I use to recharge, but I find I’m doing it more and more and enjoying it more and more.
At first glance, I felt like fewer connections with people was a bad thing. My gut reaction was to get out and immediately connect with more people. But looking back at my recent past, I don’t think a lack of connection opportunities is the problem. There have been trips to the beach with close friends, Y-Guide outings with a great group of dads who come together with the goal of showing their kids the great outdoors, dates with my wife, family visits, charity events and even a work party where I was the “plus 1.” Plenty of opportunities.
When I look back at many of these events there’s a common thread. Wade with me into analogy-ville. There’s this big pool. I’ll call it the “Connection Pool.” In my mind it is vast, odd shaped and has some kind of white-noise water feature shaped like a mushroom. All new or unchartered connections available to me are represented by the pool. Outside of the pool at an umbrella or table might be a connection or two I am comfortable enough with to go deep with in conversation. These are the few, the quality ones. Occasionally (and if you know me it is super-almost-never-occasionally), let’s say I venture into the pool. It is also metaphorically accurate and notable that I tend to always wade slowly into a pool. Once in, I am comfortable swimming in the deep end or wading in the shallow end. I AM afraid to take off my shirt. Yes, admittedly odd and definitely off-topic. I’m “Marco” in the game “Marco Polo.” I swim around saying hello to folks but not hanging around long enough to go deeper than “Polo.” And therein lies my problem. Connections are abound. I know them when I see them. I rarely hang around longer than “Polo” for any of them.
There are people, and you know who you are, that are truly natural and engaging around people. We had relatives like this who recently stayed a weekend with us. Cindy and I noted several times how few times we reached for a device that weekend. We all talked. A lot. It was fun. Interesting. I tried hard to learn from their style. Good questions. Long on dialog. No hijacking. Lots of laughing.
I’d like to improve my connections with those in the Marco Polo pool beyond the land of the small interaction. Maybe spend some time listening. Prompting. Engaging. Novel, I know. Easy? Not so much.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on connections and what makes a good connector. Connect via technology and comment below. Better yet, let’s spend some time talking about it live. I’d love to listen. I promise you won’t be my ‘Polo.’