By taking the time to stop in the midst of our busy days, look around us, pause for a minute, even with 6 meetings scheduled back-to-back, we are able to read people around us even more, making our work and relationships even richer. You will find that taking a few moments for yourself before you get into the next meeting will help to open the door for real and meaningful conversations.

Yesterday I drove up to my parent’s house in the south of The Netherlands. When I pay them a visit I always try to also see my mentally retarded brother, who is living in a special home close to them.

It starts with picking him up. We look each other in the eyes and the feeling I get is indescribable. An immense amount of information and energy is flowing between us, a deep connection is made, without using one single word. He is not able to express his feelings in words, as he is emotionally developed as a 1-year old, and yet there is a very strong connection between us needing just a look in each other’s eyes and touching each other to understand how we are doing: If he is happy I can see it in his eyes and feel his loving energy and he touches me now and then; if he is angry I can see his eyes are dark and his face is almost locked, his movements are resolute and he won’t allow me to touch him; if he is insecure he does not look at me, but continuously seeks connection by patting me on the hand, and wants to go home soon after I picked him up. My brother is the king of congruency – what you see is what you get, and what he says, he does.

Hardly any words, but a deep connection and understanding of each other. So what does it take to make this deep connection? Over the years I learnt so much from my brother: his ability to focus, his way of making a connection, his way of building trust, are only a few things. And now for me the most important three things to make a true connection with others are:

  • Creating space
  • Setting an intention
  • Being congruent

Creating space
If I take the time to make sure I can have my full attention with someone, I have found it is relatively easy to make a connection. Even when the other person is preoccupied, I have found that giving my time at that moment, slows down the other person as well. To create space right at the beginning of a meeting, I usually start with a check-in, answering 3 questions:

  1. How am I feeling right now?
  2. What is keeping me from being fully present?
  3. What is my intention for this meeting?

By starting this way, time is set still for a few minutes and the opportunity to make a personal connection is created. It makes you pause, reflect and it allows you to speak from the heart. Loic Sadoulet and Gerlinde Silvis wrote a great article about the effects of introducing the ‘check-in’ as part of a larger culture program at Rabobank.

Setting an intention
When I am in a (coaching) conversation, my intention is to be with the other person and not be distracted, to make sure (s)he gets the best of me. I deliberately set this intention before I welcome my client or step into a meeting. With this I do not mean creating an agenda, planning what will be discussed, it means I am focusing my energy and attention to what I would like to bring into the meeting and give to the attending individual(s). This gives me the mandate to be and speak from that intention. The result is that the message is pure, and non-judgemental, which creates the space to have a balanced conversation rather than a discussion. Coming out of the meeting I usually feel grateful and connected, and also receive that as feedback.

Being congruent
If you want to build trust and make a meaningful connection, it is important you are congruent in your messages in any possible way: messages sent through spoken, written as well as body language. If you are not practicing what you are preaching, it will be very difficult to convince others next time. This requires you to know yourself, to connect with yourself and feel if you can realise your promise, if you are aligned with what you state is your strength, your vision, your mission.

Writing this post, I set a new intention. Next time I am meeting my brother, I will stand still for an extra 30 seconds, to read him with more attention and make an even deeper connection with myself and with him.

What will be your first moment to stand still and make a true connection with the person you meet?

Please share your intentions in the comment boxes below so we can be inspired by your commitments.