Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I’m not stuck up, I’m just shy

For 2011, I’ve resolved to make more connections.  Or better connections.  More better connections.

I’m not talking about electrical wiring, or train travel, or tinker toys.  (Per se.)  I don’t even mean career networking or online social networking, necessarily.  I just want to connect with people more deeply. 

When I was a teenager, a girl I knew from church said something I’ll never forget.  She told me that, before she got to know me, she thought I was stuck up.

What?!  Me, stuck up?  I couldn’t believe it.  What reason would I even have for being stuck up?  I wasn’t rich or popular or anything.  I never talked down to anyone or bragged about anything.  In fact, I didn’t do a whole lot of talking at all.  I was known, mostly, as a quiet kid.  Maybe “smart,” maybe nerdy, I don’t know.  But definitely “quiet.”  Or even that dreaded word, “shy.”

Maybe that was the problem.  That girl I knew thought I was stuck up partly because of who I was hanging around with, but also because I didn’t speak up to give her any other opinion of me.  Also, as most kids, I was more self-conscious than aware of others. 

I did have friends in high school (and college and beyond), but I was mostly an introvert.  I’m okay with that.  …Except for the part about giving the wrong (stuck up) impression.  And also the part where I missed out on getting to know people and making more friendships or deeper friendships.

Connecting with people isn’t especially easy for me.  But I think it’s really important, so I want to work on that.

Actually, I believe we’re all connected already.  We’re connected with one another in a circle-of-life, people-who-need-people kind of way.

When I trace the big dipper in the sky, I feel a certain connection with stargazers across the continent, and across the millennia.  And when I read a book or article that really moves me or articulates my own beliefs, I have a kind of bond with the writer.  

Even moviegoers who all laugh at the same time, or sniffle, or jump in their seats… there’s an interconnection there.  Music, art, sports, hobbies—lots of things can bring people together.

And we’re definitely not alone on this planet of 6.8 billion.  No matter how self-reliant we may be, we’re still co-dependant.

Yet, when we’re all wrapped up in our own concerns, it’s easy to forget about all those other people.  That self-absorbed teenager is never too far away.  

So, why is “connection” my resolution?   

Well, as Suze Orman says, “People first, then things, then money.”  It sounds obvious, but it’s worth repeating.  When I look at my life, there’s really nothing more important to me than the people I care for. 

Connection, then, means honoring those relationships by being fully present.  In other words, when I’m with someone, I must really listen to them.  I need to let go of clock-watching, multi-tasking, half-assing habits.

Connection also means honoring the human bond.  If we look for the commonalities instead of the differences, we’ll go a long way towards achieving world peace.  Connection means sympathy and empathy and kindness.

Here are some simple ways that I thought of to connect with people:

  1. Make eye contact (but not in a creepy way!)
  2. Shake someone’s hand
  3. Smile at someone
  4. Listen with full attention when someone’s talking to me
  5. Invite someone over for dinner
  6. Make a lunch date
  7. Learn something about another culture
  8. Call an old friend or a relative I don’t see often
  9. Help out as often as possible
  10. Join online conversations
Can you think of any others?

Happy New Year!


eltee said...

I'm just going to take a big jump here and say, "lead a c-group." Your quietness means that you leave space for people to feel heard and be drawn out more.

My resolution should be to read your stuff more. Every time I do, I love it. Hope you have a day full of good connections.

Jennifer said...

Thanks, Lisa! It's funny, in thinking about connections and community, I didn't even think about c-groups. But... I've decided to take your advice and co-lead one. Thank you for the encouraging words!