None of us has time or words to spare, when you really think about it. Our lives on the planet are brief, and our opportunities to impact others are not infinite. Given this, I want to share three ways I believe you can truly move people when you interact with them, whether in your personal life, professional life or creative work.
Share What You Initially Fear is Too Much to Share
Whether in discussions with friends, with romantic partners or in your public speaking, writing or any other art, you will arrive at moments when revealing painful pages of your life story seems like too much of a risk. Those are the very pages to share. They are gold. I’m talking about living through losses or trauma or living with self-doubt or guilt. Sharing these pages requires courage—the courage of self-revelation. But only through self-revelation (and more of it, frankly, than you think is wise) can true connections with others be forged.
People are not moved by your successes or your C.V. They are moved by your challenges, especially the ones that initially make the seductive case that they ought be hidden away—buried. Unearth them. Share them.
Ask the Next Question, and the Next One, Too
In discussing life or love or art (which may be all the same thing, by the way) with others, many of us have the tendency to stop a conversation when we are at the threshold of intimacy—but still shy of it. Someone may offer that she “didn’t much like” her parents when she was growing up, and we’re tempted to say, “That’s sad. I’m sure they did better later on.” Or, we might say, “I think a lot of people feel that way about their parents while they’re growing up.” Both replies are ways of shutting the other person down. There are lots of questions that will open up the other person, including, “Why did you dislike them?” Or, “How did they disappoint you?” Or, “What do you remember as the time they let you down the most?”
When reading someone’s poetry or looking at his paintings or watching her film or, for that matter, wondering what moved someone to start a particular business, listen for the deepest of emotions, then ask more about the topics that seem connected to them.
Don’t run from the pain of another person. Move toward it. The reward will be genuine human connection, at a core, spiritual level. And, in this life, there is no greater reward.
Say it Out Loud When You Feel the Connection Happen
When we connect at this core, spiritual level with one or more people, the power of the connection can itself lead us to turn away from its power. To counteract this tendency, I find it valuable to state was has happened. “It’s amazing we could sit down and go back decades in one another’s life,” you might say. Or, “I feel like I know more about you after this hour than I know about friends I’ve known for years.” Celebrate and honor the connection; don’t fear it.
Really, what I am talking about here is fueling human empathy—perhaps the most powerful force in the world, and a true gift from God. We all have it, but too few of us take the time to exercise it, in order to strengthen it.
Keith Ablow, MD
Keith Ablow is the Founder of The Ablow Center and Keith Ablow Creative