The Chemistry of Connection

Ask yourself:


·      Do you send someone an email at work, even though you could walk over and talk with them?


·      How much of your time do you spend on work-related email, texts, or other digital media – versus actually meeting with people?


·      Have you had misunderstandings because you emailed rather than had a face-to-face talk?


Have More Human Moments


The trends for most of us tip more and more toward virtual contacts and less and less to real ones. And that endangers the “human moment” – that in-person connection where we feel the closeness that allows bull’s eye contact, the kind of interaction that resonates, moves people, and makes a lasting impression. Such moments allow a powerful psychological encounter that simply cannot happen online.


Of course all the digital links between us are convenient, efficient ways to communicate. But their ease can be seductive, leading us to reach out digitally when we should reach out in person. It doesn’t matter if you’re a high-level leader, in sales, working with clients, or part of a team, or just one of many in an office – the face-to-face encounter has real value.


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These are points that might seem obvious, but bear repeating as the social norms for connection are slipping away from people being together to digital connections. Ten years ago people were miffed when the person they were with answered a cell phone call while they were talking – and today that personal disconnect has become standard.


The human moment combines physical presence with mutual attention. The result is rapport. Research at Harvard finds there are three ingredients of rapport:


1) Full attention by both people.

2) A nonverbal, automatic synchrony of movements.

3) A feeling of mild pleasure. In rapport, whatever we’re doing goes smoothly, feels good, and has a special power.


Just being present won’t do it – you can ride next to someone on an airplane for hours and never connect. It’s the attention that makes all the difference.


The social circuitry of the brain was designed for face-to-face interactions, in person. Those circuits track a multitude of signals about the other person’s emotions, intentions, and the like – which gives us an immediate, unconscious but powerful, sense of what’s happening with them, and what best to say and do next. There is a steady loss of these signals as we move to phone calls (good but not best) to email, where there is zero emotional signal – just words.


A classic Harvard Business Review article instructed executives on how to have a human moment:


Step 1: Set aside what you’re doing, e.g. put down what you were reading.


Step 2: Disengage from your laptop, or any other digital distraction.


Step 3: Abandon your daydream or other random streams of thought.


Step 4: Focus on the person you’re with.


Good advice.

(This blog was originally published on LinkedIn. It has been re-posted here with prior permission from Daniel Goleman.)

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Categories: Leadership

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Daniel Goleman

Daniel Goleman is the Co-Director of Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations....

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