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Connection: Literal Life & Death

Our ability to connect is our gateway to a fulfilling life.

We all love to feel connected in some capacity. Whether that’s at work, in our families, communities, schools, or our friendship circles. Connection is beautiful! I have a question for you - out of the options below, if you were to guess what would cause most people to die early, what do you think would it be?

  • Obesity

  • Excessive drinking

  • Smoking

  • Poor social relationships

A Harvard Business Review snippet is about to blow your mind. “Research by Sarah Pressman at the University of California, Irvine, found that the probability of dying early is 20% higher for obese people, 30% higher for excessive drinkers, 50% higher for smokers, but a whopping 70% higher for people with poor social relationships. Toxic, stress-filled [environments] affect social relationships and, consequently, life expectancy.” For more information, click here: HBR Article.

70%. That’s astounding. When I read that my jaw literally dropped.

Our ability to connect with others is literally a life and death situation. How do we connect with those around us? How do we create deep, rich, fulfilling relationships? It’s different for everyone. And that’s part of this beautiful life - we all connect a little differently. Here are a few tips to help foster discussion and reflection:

Be(come) Empathetic

Empathy has become a critical component to every relationship. Empathy allows for people meet each other in spaces that may be dark, dim, or down right terrible. Brene Brown has shared that, “empathy is conveying that incredibly healing message that you’re not alone.”

None of us want to feel alone. We may need to be alone and re-center, but feeling alone can be crippling. Acting in empathy will create a framework for a healthy relationship. A gentleman by the name of Ezra Benson once said,

“The toughest battles we will ever face will be within the silent chambers of our own souls.”

Read that last sentence one more time. Let that sink in. If we treated everyone we came across like they’re in the toughest battles of their lives, how would we treat them? With compassion, respect, kindness, and generosity? How we treat others defines who we are and we can always make adjustments and changes to become who we’d like to be.

Encourage Openness

Sometimes we all need a little encouragement to share our thoughts and feelings. Help those around you by letting them know you care about their feelings, their thoughts, and their day. Now, I’m not going to be open to someone who encourages it and then shuts me down. Heck no! No chance. Here are a few things to note when encouraging openness:

  • Be a good audience member and let the person finish their story or sentence.

  • When a person has paused, let them find their own words. Your words are not their story.

  • Put distractions away and truly give them your undivided attention.

When we allow people to find their words, listen without interruptions or distractions, we are telling the person, “I care about you. I want to be here for you. I want to invest in our relationship.” You may not say it with your words, but they’ll hear you loud and clear with your actions.

Get Rockin’ and Rollin’!

My momma always taught us that “the smallest act of kindness is better than the greatest intention”. Whenever we were out and about and she saw someone who needed help, she’d say, “Get rockin’ and rollin’!”. And we did.

We would literally stop what we were doing and help the elderly couple load up their groceries, or help the random person pick up their leaves, or pick up a stranger who’s Jazzy broke down. The opportunities to serve are endless IF we are willing to see and act. The people who you want to have rich, meaningful relationships with will only grow deeper as you serve each other. Notice that it wasn’t one sided. Both parties need to invest.

Wrap It Up

People who have poor social relationships are 70% more likely to die early. That speaks volumes as to how imperative it is to invest in healthy, meaningful relationships. Take some time today to practice empathy, openness, and as my momma says, “get rockin’ and rollin’!”


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