Connection speeds. Just mention this to anyone who knows a gigabyte from a word processor, and you’ll have waded into some deep waters.
But there’s another type of connection I’d like to ramble about–the connection between you and me, between you and your mother, between your friend and his estranged great uncle. The power of connection is not just the punchline to an annoying homeschooler joke, or something we need to get by in the work force. It’s a key to happiness.
What? Scoffs the scoffer. Everyone knows how to be social.
But when was the last time you had a failed attempt at conversation, because the other person didn’t seem to know how to carry on, or lost interest in what you were saying? In my experience, it’s always the “cool” people who just don’t understand some of the basics of making people feel welcome, accepted, or good about themselves. Like waiting for your dial-up to, well, dial up, making friends with such people is an arduous, often disappointing task.
Having recently lived through a frustrating week of such behavior, I decided to do some research about other people’s research. My search brought me to a wonderful book. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, (and the more recent update, which pins ‘In the Digital Age’ to the title), is choke full of anecdotes, examples from history, and wise advice, without ever stepping over the line from helpful to indulgent self-help book.
Some of the counsel Carnegie writes is wonderfully simple. Such as, the effectiveness of a smile.
Just yesterday, I stood in a long, dawdling line to the women’s restroom. My attitude was of sleep deprived, road weary traveler, eager to hit the road and get home–so naturally, while I wasn’t scowling, I wasn’t exactly exuding joy. The little blond girl who stood in front of me, however, had a much different outlook. After looking up at me curiously, she gave me an uncertain smile which, although lacking confidence, was so genuine it brought a smile to my own face. We then talked about her cowboy boots. Later, toting her Big Gulp toward her mother in the store, she noticed me again and waved enthusiastically to the stranger from the bathroom.
That kid brightened my whole day. And although I wouldn’t recommend engaging most strangers in gas stations as she did, I was thankful she had chosen to shine a little bit of her sunshine onto me.
In conclusion, I would hypothesize that sociability is not how many friends you hang out with, but how genuine those relationships are. And to really speed our connections up, I would also define it as being polite. Not, pinky up, polite, but considerate and kind–making others realize the worth in themselves by taking an interest in them. Anyone who does that meets my standard of “cool.”