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Two tools to help you connect with ANY human being

I enrolled in a local county leadership class to improve my leadership skills, learn about the community, and make some good connections with community stakeholders. Little did I know that I would meet a woman who would change my life. She is a mature intellectual woman, with a lifetime of teaching experience, extensive business experience, insight, a passion for bringing ideas and people together, for learning, and a love for people. She came into my life at a pivotal time, though I didn’t know it. A time where I had just taken a job as the Executive Director of a nonprofit and where people became my life’s passion and my full time job. I didn’t know enough about my job yet to know I needed this woman, but I did and still do.

This woman taught me by example and by word the beautiful opportunity that exists when we encounter another human being. She invited me and a few other women, of like mind and profession, to her home for a semi-formal tea. The entire experience was intriguing to me because I felt as if our host was up to something though she never admitted so, but there was definitely a purpose and reason behind who she invited and why. She had an agenda and that agenda was to bring together women with similar interests and like minds who could have a serious conversation about issues. She knew we wouldn’t agree on all the issues, but she knew we were the type of women who would discuss ideas and were open to changing our minds. She brought together the right people to engage in hearty conversation and she did that to get us more engaged in the issues in our community and to motivate us to make change.

I sat in her formal living room without a clue as to what I was doing there. She knew full well what she was doing as her smiled continuously revealed the fact that she was enjoying being a master of her own play. She started the afternoon with refreshments as an ice breaker. We were never invited into her informal living room because she wanted us to work. She didn’t want us to get too relaxed. We were there to think and act. I watched her in awe as she began asking us questions and listening to our answers. She was a master craftsman wielding her power throughout our discussion. Questions were asked in purposeful ways and she listened as if every word out of our mouths was key to her survival. Once the conversation was in full circle and had taken a life of its own she left us alone. Our apprenticeship was underway and she let us work out the tricks of our trade.

I left invigorated and I felt smarter. I felt as if we had solved the world’s problems, or were getting ready to. I left the encounter understanding that I had just encountered someone that could teach me as much about life as she could leadership. I was hooked. I proudly completed the leadership class under her capable instruction and came away a changed woman. The lessons that I learned will forever be a part of who I am and they were critical for who I needed to be as the leader of a nonprofit. She opened up a whole new world to me that I didn’t know existed and I savor that world and am changed by it. As a leader I was in a position where I could affect change in our community and affect change in the lives of people I connected with on a daily basis so it was vital that I knew how to connect with people.

Perception

My teacher first and foremost changed my perception of people. This is the key to being able to connect with ANY human being. I really mean any. My teacher taught me the value of every human being. We can connect with people because they are people like us. There are similar experiences we share with people, memories, goals, dreams, ideas, and space. Every person is someone who can teach us new things. Some teach us what not to do and some teach us what to do. Some show us a different way of living, present us with new ways of doing things, new ways of thinking, and new perceptions. We can connect because we are living and breathing and once we connect we can find common ground in other areas.

Every person is an opportunity for growth. There is the opportunity to be changed by people and if you can embrace this opportunity you will see others as your greatest adventure. Now this doesn’t mean that we go around loving all our co-workers, enjoying annoying people at meetings, or even loving our spouse any more than we do, but it means we can connect and grow and this type of experience can become valuable in our lives.

Ask & Listen

My teacher put several women in a room. She asked us questions. As we listened to each other we began to learn about one another. Ideas began to circulate and we began to learn. We were similar women, but not the same. We love the community and helping others, but had very different ideas of how to do that. We probably wouldn’t have met had our teacher not instigated the meeting. We would have been happy to stay in our own circles, but she brought us together and we were better for it. I learned about these women and grew from the experience. They learned about me and my point of view and we all agreed that our community needed all the help it could get.

I am a part of a project at work. I go up to an employee I have never met and smile. Hi. I ask questions. This person doesn’t look like someone that I can relate to or that I would understand, but I know we can connect. I keep asking and I listen intently. I want to learn about them. I know there must be something we can relate to. As I work with them I seek to learn from them. I want to be changed and grow and the only way to do that is to ask and listen. As I learn about this person I can ask better questions. Directing the conversation towards a specific end. I can learn so much about life from this new person and I can go away with new ideas about life and feeling great because I connected with someone that was much different than I am. It is truly a beautiful experience.

Connect

There are so many wonderful reasons to connect with others. Sometimes we have to because we have to work with people or interact with them on a daily basis. Sometimes we just need to grow and expand our mind and boundaries. Connecting makes others feel good. It’s not condoning, adopting, or changing, but growing. The biggest drama queen at work is now my friend on Facebook. She actually scares the crap out of me when I see her coming my way. I don’t want any part of that, but an office encounter was inevitable. I saw her coming and looking me over. I said, “I love the pants.” In a few minutes she was sharing her day’s goals and later in the day she friended me on Facebook. She is the last person I want anything to do with. Our goals at work are different, but we are two people stuck in the same place trying to earn a paycheck. I can connect with that. In our short encounter I learned about her very human side and realize that though she chooses to disrupt the workplace she is also a kind woman with passions and desires that I can relate to. We connected.

I spent seven years as the Executive Director of a nonprofit and my time there was beautiful because every day I got to go in and connect with others. I no longer saw people as clients, donors, or community stakeholders, but as men and women. I approached each one as an opportunity to grow and learn, and hoped that I could enrich their lives as much as they enriched mine. I connected and what a beautiful opportunity there is when we do. My seven years there was an amazing time of growth in my life and I thank all the people I encountered for helping me become the person that I am today.

Connect. You will be amazed at the world that will open up to you when you do. See a person? Here is an opportunity for growth and to connect and share a moment of our lives. Try it.

Marcy Pedersen