Nov 302017 0 Responses

Connection: A Quick Checklist

Humans are created for connection. Like a pack animal, we suffer in isolation. We were meant to laugh, identify, share, understand, support, and be with others. While personalities differ and the amount of human connection may not be the same, the basic concept of human connection is rooted in all of us.

But how do we know if we are connected or not? Who needs to further their connections and who is connected at a proper level?

One thing is certain–connection is not defined by the total number of relationships. Some of the loneliest people have a plethora of relationships, are continually surrounded by people, and appear to others as some of the most relational people they know. While they are surrounded by people, they are connected to no one.

Connection is about quality, not quantity. Yet some quantity matters. In order to feel connected, we need a certain number of relationships.

We need the best relationship we can have with our family. Not perfect, but the best relationship possible. We need friends to walk beside us, mentors to guide us, and people in whom we can invest. While no one can be perfectly connected, we should pursue the best relationships possible for the sake of our physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

10 Question Checklist

No test can give a definitive diagnosis regarding connection, but here is a basic checklist to score your level of connection.

1. In the last month, I have met in person with someone other than my family for the sheer sake of checking on them and them checking on me. T/F

2. In the last week, I have spoken with someone outside my family on the phone or via text with the sole purpose of friendship–not work, not social obligations, but an interchange of concern for one another’s well being. T/F

3. I have a best friend at work and trust my boss. T/F

4. My relationship with my immediate family–parents, siblings, children–is in a settled and generally positive place. T/F

5. In the past six months, I’ve met in person or spoken on the phone with a mentor who has encouraged me and directed me both personally and professionally. T/F

6. In the past couple of months, I have used my experience, knowledge, or wisdom to assist someone else without any expectation of getting something in return. T/F

7. If I want to do something this weekend–enjoy a hobby, go to a movie, attend a game, etc–I have multiple people I could invite and in most cases at least one would agree to join me. T/F

8. If I received bad news right now, I have someone other than family I could call that I know would listen and care. I have leaned on this person at some point in the past year. T/F

9. I have close friendships with people who are different from me in how they look, background, race, gender, political preference, socio-economic standing. T/F

10. I have a romantic partner who loves me and whom I love. T/F

Notice a few things about these questions:

  • They aren’t exhaustive. It’s a suggested list, not the ultimate test.
  • Some relationships need to be daily, but others have more distance.
  • Family is important. While our relationships won’t be perfect, they do need to be in a settled place where we can communicate.
  • Work satisfaction is generally defined by two things–having a best friend and trusting your boss. Without both, work will likely disconnect us more than making us feel supported.
  • We must serve and be served in order to connect.
  • Diversity in our community matters. Relating to people different than us actually makes us more connected while only relating to those who look like us feels isolating. (See Brene Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness)
  • While romantic relationships are important, they play a very small part in the overall definition of connection. Our society overestimates the importance of a romantic relationship regarding connection. It’s important, but many people in happy marriages are lonely and many others without a romantic partner feel loved and supported.

Scoring:

For every statement which is true of you, give yourself one point. If an answer doesn’t apply, credit yourself one point for that question.

9-10 points: you are very connected. Continue to nourish those relationships.

6-8 points: you are connected, but you need to intentionally develop some areas.

5 or less points: you are in danger of suffering significant consequences from disconnection. Make a plan, make changes, and get help in doing so.

Listen to Your Loneliness

Thirst is an announcement that our body needs water. It’s often a lag measure–by the time we are thirsty, we are already lacking fluids. It’s important that we understand our bodies and discipline ourselves to regularly drink water. It’s also important that we listen to our bodies and when we are thirsty we drink fluids.

Loneliness works in much the same way. Some loneliness is natural. We are unique individuals living in a broken world. All of us will feel isolated at times. However, we should pay much more attention to our feelings of loneliness. It is often a sign that we need to work on our relationships. Connection is such a part of our humanity that we must intentionally work on them while also listening to the signs that we need more work.

A common misconception is that relationships should happen naturally. We fail to understand that meaningful relationships are built. We must take the time, make the effort, and display the courage necessary to create the connections we need.

Rarely is someone perfectly connected. Far more often, we all need work. What is one relationship you can work on today?

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