How to Escape Isolation with Five Proven Connection Habits
It’s interesting how from a new vantage point, dynamics become clearer. Let me explain what I mean…
I’ve been a member of an organization for mothers and their children for well over a decade, and recently, I accepted a leadership role in my local chapter, my new vantage point. What I’ve noticed is that the way mothers relate to one another (not just in my group but throughout mother-dom) reminds me of the entrepreneur.
Ask any mother, “How are you? How are things going?” Inevitably, she’ll answer with one of the following pat answers: Great. Super. Wonderful. She might even add a few anecdotal details. Then she follows with, how are you? I don’t think this is just a mother thing. It’s a practice that permeates our culture. We don’t want to burden the listener with the ins and outs of our struggle. (Surprise, we all have them!) So, we remain polite.
The problem is when we maintain that veneer in every relationship. This practice hampers true connection with others. It has been proven that strong social connection generates a positive feedback loop that supports social, emotional, and physical well-being. Humans need to connect to thrive in life.
Yet, our culture is moving more towards isolation than connection. One study revealed that in the past thirty years the number of close confidantes that people maintain has declined from three in 1985 to one, with 25% of Americans saying that they have no one to confide in. This can lead to isolation, deep loneliness, depression, and other mental and physical health issues.
This can be particularly detrimental for the entrepreneur, with whom this practice of polite talk is also common.
Their conversation sounds a little like this…
When asked how things are going, the entrepreneur thinks of the myriad of deadlines that are looming, the tech issues to be resolved, the unfinished proposals, and the mounting exhaustion that plagues her. Then decides, I can’t share all of this…they won’t get it. And responds with, Great. Super. Wonderful.
Here are a few counter-practices that support the shedding of that mask and that foster connectivity that every person could benefit from, entrepreneur or not.
STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE
When you’re stressed and overwhelmed, and don't share with those you have relationships with, then you short circuit the connection between you and them. Distance surfaces. Then, it grows. Combat this process by sharing regularly. Take the brave step to be open and honest with those closest to you. It may feel awkward at first but do it anyway. And keep sharing. Also, ask for input from those you love and trust.
STICK TO A SCHEDULE
This may seem like an unrelated strategy but hear me out. When you work based upon a schedule, you create consistency in your work flow and reduce your stress level. Then you can see the margin that can be used for scheduled lunches or coffees with other entrepreneurs to talk shop and with friends to not talk shop. We need both in our lives to stay connected.
CHOOSE TO CO-WORK
It may be an added expense but there are many reasonable co-working options that may serve you well. I love my local co-working space, Work and Play. Although I don’t make it there every day, I know that I have a place to go to connect with other entrepreneurs doing their thing. My membership there affords me the opportunity to participate in activities and programming that the owner offers. It’s a community and a connection point for me. I encourage you to find one that works for you.
Join a mentoring community for a more structured connection. There are many out there. Some focus on a type of entrepreneur such as coaches or speakers. Others zero in on an aspect of business, like marketing or sales. Still others are a good mix of entrepreneurs and traditional working professionals. Find a group that fits in with where you are on your career journey. Then connect.
DO FOR SELF
Taking care of yourself is critical to having quality connections with others. So, exercise daily. I joined a spin class that meets every Wednesday at 5:30AM. We have a little community evolving and miss one another when one of us can’t make it. You can try going for a walk or run on your own. Believe it or not, there is a community of others who do the same. After a few jaunts, you’ll notice the same faces and welcome the brief connection.
It’s very easy to slip into living life on the surface. We are all so busy. It seems like there isn’t much time for delving deep with anyone. Add to that, the tendency to limit authentic engagement due painful past experiences with betrayal and there really isn't much incentive to connect deeply. But we must have a paradigm shift to live a full life.
Cultivating connectivity requires courage, awareness, and discipline. But we can do it, y’all. One step at a time.
Pick a couple of items from the list above to incorporate in your life. Pay attention to how connected you feel as a result. Rinse and repeat. Remember: our personal and professional lives are only as good as the habits we rehearse. So, let’s do this!
Until next time…