By Dabria VanGieson

In the last few years, several factors seem to have played into our ability, or rather inability, to connect with each other in an empathetic, genuine manner. These factors include the pandemic, social injustice, as well as the political environment.

In a time where everything seems to be divisive, it is so important to focus on genuinely and empathetically connecting with others. One of the simplest ways to connect with others is by asking questions that lead to discussions as opposed to one-word answers. Many of us are programmed to check in with others with a simple, “Hi! How are you?” Questions like these make us go into autopilot, and a typical response is, “Good. How are you?” and then the conversation stops. 

Vanessa Van Edwards, the founder, and lead behavioral investigator at Science of People, gives several alternative questions to help promote deeper connections. Questions like, “What personal passion project are you working on?” Or “What were the high point and low point of your day?” These questions break the social script and are dopamine (also known as the feel-good chemical) producing!

Questions like these often make us pause and intentionally reflect on what we want to say instead of responding in a reflexive way. Before ending a session with clients, I’ll often ask if they have something exciting coming up or something they are looking forward to. This will often allow them to end their sessions on a positive note, and I typically see a fairly instant improvement in mood (i.e., they smile, their posture improves, their voice becomes more excited, etc.). When we ask questions like this, it also gives us a chance to follow up with that person at a later date by checking on the thing they were looking forward to, which makes the other person feel more valued and heard because you remembered something specific to them (i.e., “Hey! How did your cousin’s wedding go last weekend?”).

We should all challenge ourselves to go deeper into relationships with people, to truly invest in how they are doing and feeling. By forming deeper connections, we strengthen relationships and promote more resiliency in ourselves and in others.

For more about how you can better connect with others, ask about our employee assistance programs today.

couple talking in a park