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5 steps to meaningful connections at work (and everywhere else)

We are social creatures, so connecting with others is a basic human need. If we feel unconnected, rejected or alone, we feel the pain in the same part of the brain as physical pain.

Some people seem to be born socializers. They look self-confident and relaxed while connecting with others easily – at networking events, at pool parties or in the office. But the fact is: everybody can learn how to be a people’s person. Emotional intelligence is the key and is, unlike many think, trainable.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood.” -Ralph Nichols

Social thinking and analytical thinking happen in two different parts of the brain. When you think analytically, you’re social neural network shuts down. Once you’re finished with the analytical tasks, the social brain kicks in again – it’s our brain’s autopilot, our natural state!

As highly social creatures, we all should be perfect at socializing one might think. But our ability to connect with others is disturbed by shyness, pride, competitiveness, feelings of inferiority and self-criticism.

If you leave those disrupters out of the game, you can connect with anyone.

1. Look for the good in every person.

If your perspective changes, your world changes! Always try to approach people without initial judgement and expect the best from them. Usually people feel this and act accordingly. They feel “safe” and understood, which also helps them to open up and connect. It also prevents you from writing off great people too soon. Don’t burn bridges too soon.

2. Positioning

We know how first impressions can make or break a relationship. Seven seconds are usually enough for a person to make a snapshot. After that, people are looking for justifications of their first impression. Hereby, your body language plays a major role. If you’re aware of your facial expression, gestures etc., it is easier to get the result you want (i.e. positive, open body language if you want to draw people to you). Positive body language can entail an enthusiastic tone of voice, eye contact and a firm stand. Those things form an entire picture about your character and it’s by far more holistic than only WHAT you’re saying! An Israeli research team even created an app (moodies) that after recording and analyzing the pitch of your voice can tell what mood you’re currently in.

3. Leave the superficial island first!

Usually, we start conversations about very safe topics, like basics about ourselves, looking for common ground with the other person. If you really want to “click” with somebody, try to open up more. Show what you’re passionate about or even share some recent failures (as long as you still feel comfortable enough disclosing them). Vulnerability can be powerful and allow others to open up, too as people are naturally looking for (social) balance. I.e: if you share something personal, they will share something personal, too.

Once people open up to you, never criticize or judge! If you make people feel uncomfortable or even rejected, it’s quite likely that this relationship ends before it even started. Show respect, empathy and ask! I often learn more from people I don’t agree with – they bring in a new perspective which can be very eye-opening.

4. Master the art of questions

This brings me to point #4. Dare to ask questions that are deeper after you established some initial trust. Especially “substantial” questions that help you to understand what makes others tick. People who share thoughts on life philosophy or personal goals, connect faster and stronger. But it doesn’t have to be such global topics like life itself- you can also ask for an opinion in their field of expertise. This makes them feel valued and more connected to you instantly.

5. Switch off the inner voice

Listening is one of the most crucial skills when it comes to bonding with others. Many times though we catch ourselves drafting what we will say next or simply drifting away in our mind and thereby missing out on what the other person is saying. We hear the word, but the meaning is lost. Turning this inner voice off leads to deeper connections – not only because you listen more actively, but also because the other person can feel and see whether you are truly listening or just trying to make your point.


Sincere interest in others is already half the way. If you have that, you automatically listen, ask questions and approach the person with a positive attitude. Substantial questions and a good posture can be trained. Bringing everything together, you can create meaningful connections with everyone!

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