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How to Connect With People

By: Brian Kim - October 9, 2007

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In a day and age when people strive to uphold the image of popularity though means of accruing as many “friends” as possible through online social networks like Myspace and Facebook, it’s rare to see people actually connecting with one another, not through technological means, but connecting with each other at the deepest level as human beings.

Connecting with people is just one of those things you can only experience. Words cannot do it justice nor come close to articulating what it’s all about. It’s one of those things where you can just sense the bond forming in real time and solidifying without any words spoken between the two people in acknowledgement of it.

And you know when this bond is formed, that you have something really special going on.

Obviously, this isn’t just reserved for couples. This solid connection can be formed between people of all ages, races, social status, etc., simply because it’s a human thing and it’s indeed a beautiful thing when it happens.

When you connect with someone, a strong bond starts to form between the two of you and true friendship and all of its fruits start to blossom – loyalty, understanding of one another, forgiveness, empathy and all the other qualities associated with rich friendship.

So how does one person connect with another?

Most of the time, we don’t even realize we are doing it simply because it happens so naturally. That being said, let’s take a closer objective look at the whole process to see exactly what’s happening in terms of how people start connecting with one another.

When two people meet for the first time, you don’t actually meet “them” so to speak. You meet the best impression they want to make of themselves, so right off the bat, one person is forming an image based on the image the other is trying to project, an image for the most part that’s not really accurate at first.

If these two people continue to socialize and keep in touch, they'll engage in small talk, get to know one another a little bit more, maybe hang out a few times here and there and the image they have of the other will gain a little more clarity.

Then, there comes a point where the roads start to diverge.

Road #1: The images they have of one another start to solidify and the rest of the relationship is spent maintaining the status quo of those respective images and they continue to base their future interactions off that

OR

Road #2: They start to open up and reveal their true selves.

It’s far easier for most people to head towards Road #1. It requires little maintenance - just crack a few jokes, ask how they’re doing, how their family’s doing, do your little routine, offer them a beer and sit back and relax.

However, Road #2 is where the real magic begins.

BUT, before deciding which road to go on, you have to decide who you’re going to go down that road with.

Most people will be able to discern among the people they know, who they have a “better shot” at with in terms of going down Road #2 with. That discernment may be the result of a feeling, a natural rapport, many similarities between the two, etc. Case in point, you don’t go down Road #2 with many people, only a select few, which makes the journey that much more special and the potential of connecting and forming a real bond, that much more stronger.

For the most part, most people know all about Road #2, but very few want to be the first one to take the first steps toward that direction.

Sooner or later, one person has to take the initiative and go down that road and when that person does, when he/she opens up and starts to reveal things about themselves that they normally wouldn’t do to the person they feel they can go down Road #2 with, a whole new experience starts to unfold.

If you start to open up (which is hard to do at first), more often than not, the other person WILL reciprocate.

The more you open up and show people the real you, the more other people will do exactly the same thing.

When you take the initiative to do this, you’ve silently implied that the status quo of the relationship has changed; it’s time for the next level of the relationship – to form a real solid connection, rather than one loosely built on small talk, greetings, and images of one another based on a small handful of information.

When you start going deep and start talking about your private experiences, thoughts, feelings, questions, etc., the other person after hearing all this will realize how difficult it must’ve been for you to do this and will feel obligated to reciprocate naturally. Previous images will be shredded; new ones will be formed, but this time, real ones.

It’s through this mutual sharing that the connection and bond really starts to form and take shape. Truth, honesty, openness serve to be the cohesive materials that make up the connecting bonds. One very important thing to remember is that when a person opens up, they’ll most likely feel some vulnerability on their part so you have to watch yourself and make sure you don’t inadvertently make them feel bad for letting their guard down and opening up to you. Make sure you tell the other person in one way or another that you appreciate what they did by telling them openly or by implying it through reciprocation on your part. Empathize with them, see things from their point of view, put yourself in other person’s shoes, understand where they’re coming from. You have to make all that apparent or else the other person will probably never feel comfortable opening up again and you’ll have lost your opportunity to really connect with that person.

When you connect with people, you’ll begin to see universal human truths start to appear throughout the conversation because after hearing what they have to say, all those thoughts, feelings, experiences- you’ll breathe a sigh of relief because you’ll know that it wasn’t just you who had those similar thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

When both of you realize these universal human truths start to appear throughout your interaction, that will only serve to solidify the bond and the connection between the two of you.

Another important thing to realize is that you need to spend a lot of one on one time in order to really give yourself a chance to connect with that person. You can’t do it in group because everyone is usually so preoccupied with keeping up the image they have within the group that they won’t let their guard down. People tend to lower their “shields” during one on one time.

And it does take time. Everyone has to go through the “ritual”. That’s just the way it is. Nobody would be comfortable opening up to any person they just met. Most people are guarded for a pretty long time until they test the waters by letting their guard down, and when the proper response is given by the other person, it can take the relationship to a whole new level.

Have the courage to take the first steps toward Road #2 with those you’re comfortable with and you’ll soon find them reciprocating. Build off of your newfound openness and you’ll start feeling the connection soon enough.

And even though no words are spoken directly about the connection itself between the two of you, you’ll both know that it’s there and you’ll both be glad you had to courage to go down the right road to make it.

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3 Responses to “How to Connect With People”

  1. Dan M Says:

    I don’t at all mean to be rude, so don’t take this too harshly. I think that this article portrays a rather superficial look at friendship - and all relationship in general - with these very abstract ideas of “universal human truths” or a rather too-noble [read: too good to be true] characterization of reciprocation. It involves a lot more than “opening up” and it’s a lot more difficult to do ‘right’. Of course, a number of problems present themselves when one begins to speak of ‘right’ ways to do things: namely, people get offended. So while I do indeed believe that there is a right way to go about it, experience tells me to refrain from any sort of in-depth description on a public forum (people don’t like being told that their friendships are superficial or based on false pretenses, go figure). What I can say, and this is not to be pessimistic although it may seem so upon a first reading, is that most of the time when you open up to other people, they exploit that to use you for their own benefit. The number of people who “qualify”, although such a scientific sort of word seems very out of place in a conversation about social ideas, for friendship is far fewer than your article implies. I know too many people that have tried to open up to people they truly felt comfortable with only for the other to turn around and use it against them. It’s a nice thought to assume that people might lay down their survivalist/individualistic attitudes to indulge in a real friendship, but by-and-large that’s not the case.

    I’ve been called cynical and pessimistic for expressing views less apparently so than the ones here, but I assure you I’m quite the optimist, at least relatively speaking. But closing your eyes to some serious social problems isn’t an appropriate way to be optimistic; you have to recognize that there is a huge problem before you can take any steps to prove it. I’ve found, again unfortunately, that the problem is so big now, and so acidic, that it’s quite impossible to properly focus on fixing these problems on any large-scale basis; however, we can indeed take steps towards fixing the problem slowly by focusing on our own lives - and the lives of those friends we may be so lucky to chance upon - and do our best to serve as an example in hopes that more people will follow suit. The problem is that living a moral life is hard and the rewards are slow-coming and most often non-material which proves a tough line to hold uphill against the hordes carrying their various billboard-standards, atop their materialism and brandishing the “holy” name of immediate gratification. I would consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to actually bring two or three people to the other side, and help show them how to get past the modern superficiality. One of the biggest hurdles is that so few people are ever willing to recognize that they are on the narcissistically-driven side of “the masses” so they’re not willing to take suggestions (and especially not criticism) let alone actually change anything. I was fortunate enough to have a good teacher point me in the right direction when I was fairly young and still had little enough life experience and enough of an open mind to consider myself in positions other than imaginary images.

    People don’t just invent these images you mention intentionally and they can turn them off an on at will. It’s a completely unconscious construction that most people aren’t even aware of; then they begin actually associate their identity with that false image and it becomes them - not in a literal sense, but it certainly directs their actions. So the “real them” is still an image. I’m sure I’ve already gotten on the wrong side of people with such recently taboo words as “proper” and “right” - let alone words like “pride” or “dignity” or “virtue” or “conservative” which are now almost all associated with being arrogant or pretentious: in fact, some of them are seen as synonyms for them - so I’ll end with a very valuable lesson I’ve learned that has been proven true time and time again. You don’t know anything about anyone until you know what they’re like when they don’t get what they want. Don’t listen to how people talk about themselves or about you, listen to how they talk about people they don’t like. Pay attention to how they act around and treat people they don’t respect. It’s really easy for a bad person to pretend they’re good; it’s far harder for a good person to pretend they’re bad.

    Dan M

  2. Dan M Says:

    Well, I was just re-reading my previous comment quickly and I noticed a few things I mean to correct because they seriously hinder what I had meant to say - unfinished words and the like. I won’t be fixing all of the problems, just the glaring ones that make it ambiguous.

    EDIT:

    Second paragraph, 4th line from the top: it should read “improve” instead of “prove”.

    Second paragraph, 4nd/3rd line from the bottom: I say, “they’re not willing to take suggestions (and especially not criticism) let alone actually change anything”. I didn’t point out, and should have, that accepting suggestion, criticism and other such apparently “hurtful” things (if you’re going to run your life by emotion) are an integral part of friendship. A “friend” is not a friend if they can’t tell you when you’re wrong.

    Second paragraph, last line: When I say, “imaginary images” I mean to signify the images people present to other people fallaciously. The problem with this is that it’s often not consciously intentional, and often enough people tend to ‘really’ believe that they are who they present themselves to be - kind of like the old clichĂ©, “if you tell a lie enough eventually you’ll believe it yourself.” Of course, this is part of the reason that people generally tend to think they are not part of that larger group, “the masses.” You should be able to defend all of your actions (i.e., when someone asks, “why did you do that,” you should always have an answer) and part of friendship is asking those questions.

    Third paragraph, first line: “…and they can turn them off an on at will” should read, “…and they can’t turn them off and on at will.”

    Regards,
    Dan M

  3. A Says:

    I appreciate Dan’s perspective on the article. It’s true…it has gotten increasingly hard to connect with people. Most people have complex ways of dealing with the world and if you show vulnerability - they will see it as a weakness, thus devaluing you, and therefore they no longer feel the desire to have you as a close friend (because you’re now “weak” according to them.) The world is hypocritical because these types of people often pursue other people who will reject them in a similar way when they open themselves to that person.

    I admit that I am guilty of it as well. However, I don’t engage in dramatic relationships and when I attempt to make contact with people, it is always me on the losing end of the encounter. I do not lead individuals into thinking they could have a strong connection with me if I do not feel I could have a strong connection with them. This line of thought is mostly in regards to relationships. The only cure I suppose would be being more open-minded and accepting of more people - however, at least in terms of relationships, if I’m not attracted to a girl I feel it would be a waste of her time to “use” her for emotional security.

    The world is cold, and often the ones who realize this and do not want to hurt others, are alone and have been for some time. The model is: Either you choose to go and attempted to make connections and get shot down, you stay alone, or you use other people for emotional security. I would like to be more optimistic, but this is simply how I see the world (at least now in my 20s). There are a lot of things I’m missing out on in life, and to be honest, I don’t blame myself - I do blame the world. That may sound childish or naive, but there are serious problems in the world with people - people are very cold and unwilling to open to others. I have found this especially in relationships - or the lack thereof. What is upsetting is many do not understand the underlying causes of their complex relationships: it all comes down to people not being willing to settle with what their current realities and current loves and be open to helping those people who may have problems in their lives. Too many people act in terms of “what can I get out of this encounter?” The end result for many of theses people will be a failed marriage mid-life, and a complete breakdown. These people are fickle and do not fully understand the reasons that they end up in relationships in the first place - at least I should say, many do not.

    The world is a complex puzzle and many are lacking pieces through depravity of experience. I don’t claim to know everything of course, and my argument is tainted due to the fact that I’m in a bit of a rut in life, and I’ve had no actual relationships. But there is a reason for my not engaging in relationships - and that reason sheds light on a very dark side of humanity that humanity would rather forget with the use of alcohol or another drug of choice and a good night’s sleep.

    Someday we’ll wake up and realize that we’re missing. And it will be no one else’s fault but our own. And the guilt and realization that many others knew about this years before it happened to us, will - simply speaking - ruin the remainder of our lives.

    And I would have to say I’m an optimist! At least, I’d like to think that MY life will get better, because I realize how much better my life is going to be in 20 years compared to those who use avoidance and drugs to forget their problems. If I live long enough, I suppose I will find some happiness in life. But then, much like now, it will be hard to find if any good people are left.

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