What You Feel; They Feel
Connect With People – Alexandre Porto
· 7 min read ·
When you say ‘connect to people’, I think of the human need for social interaction.
People who do not feel socially connected are lonely and unhappy, whereas those who have friends and family tend to be happier.
Social connection is a basic human need (I learned this when reading about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs), so it would make sense that people should want to connect with others.
We are social animals.
We have evolved to live in groups and form close bonds with our friends, family, lovers, and coworkers.
People need others to survive and prosper — humans could not exist as individuals living alone on islands or in caves.
The question, then, is how to connect with others?
I would say it depends on the individual and the context.
I learned about a phenomenon called emotional contagion. It is the tendency of one person to ‘catch’ another’s emotions, whether it be joy or sadness. Popularly known as “What you feel, they feel”.
For example, if I watch a friend get dumped by their boyfriend and start crying, my own sadness will be amplified.
The same goes for happiness — if I see someone else receive great news and begin to cheer, then even though I am not directly involved in the situation, my mood will improve as well.
I believe this is why people seek out others for social interaction — they are hoping that by being in the company of others, their own emotions will be improved.
If I am feeling down, then seeing a happy person may brighten my mood. If I am feeling great, then seeing someone else’s joy might make me feel even better
The only thing that connects us is empathy and compassion, but I don’t believe these things can be forced or learned.
We all have different values and opinions.
People can learn to be compassionate with each other, but they often carry their own set of prejudices that limit the extent to which people are able to truly connect.
While we are all humans, in the end, we are very different.
We have different upbringings, different experiences, and perspectives, and ultimately this makes us incapable of connecting with one another.
For example, I don’t believe there is any such thing as a human being who does not value the life of their own child.
But at the same time, it is completely possible for someone to think that other humans should be killed or harmed in certain circumstances.
It’s a contradiction, and it is this kind of contradiction that makes us unable to connect with one another.
I think the only way for humans to connect with each other is through empathy. You have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and understand what they are going through.
The most optimal way to connect with people is to listen and truly understand them. A person who listens can be friends, or at the very least an acquaintance of anyone.
The next best way to connect with people is, to be honest, and direct, but in a polite manner. People will usually respect you for that.
Lastly, the worst way to connect with people is to pretend that you are like them.
Playing Games and Deep Conversation
The most optimal way to connect with people would be a combination of playing games and engaging in deep conversation, as well as what I like to call “small talk”, which is more or less social chit chat.
These are three separate but interconnected ways of interacting with other humans.
They each have their benefits and shortcomings.
The games are the most fun. You can play almost any game online, and it is a good way to make friends with people that have similar interests as you. It is also good for stress relief.
However, there are drawbacks.
Games can be addictive to the point where you play them too much and neglect other areas of your life. They can also lead to a false sense of achievement if they become your main focus in life.
Deep conversation is important, too. I don’t mean deep philosophical or religious conversations, but rather just having a meaningful discussion about life and the human experience. This helps you connect to people on a more intimate level.
The problem is that deep conversation can take a long time.
It’s not always easy to find the right person with whom you can have such conversations.
Small talk is the most common way of connecting with people, but it isn’t the easiest. The problem with small talk is that you can’t have any deep conversations in this setting so I usually don’t find it all that useful.
I think the way to handle deep conversations is not to use them as a forum for debating but instead try and come up with some sort of common ground.
The best way of handling deep conversations.
One should try and find common ground between different beliefs.
There may be some people who are insecure and do not want to have deep conversations so they can avoid dealing with problems.
What exactly constitutes a “deep conversation”, and what would make one different from another?
Would all deep conversations have the same features?
I’ll begin with a statement that seems to be rather obvious: all deep conversations are necessarily two-sided.
They must involve at least two minds, and both of them have the capacity to speak and listen.
There can’t be any such thing as a one-sided “deep conversation” because it is nearly impossible for anyone — even those who pride themselves on being good listeners — to truly focus their attention on just one side of the conversation without becoming distracted by their own inner thoughts.
However, I think it is important to note that a “deep conversation” doesn’t necessarily require both people talking at the same time.
If one person is more talkative than another, there can still be a “deep conversation”.
For example, if two people are sitting together in silence and the first person suddenly burst out with questions or thoughts that needed answering, this would certainly count as a deep conversation.
Another thing that I think is worth mentioning is the need for a specific topic to be discussed. Without some sort of direction, it would seem very difficult to have any sort of meaningful conversation.
Now that we have established some basic conditions for a conversation to be considered “deep”, how are these conversations supposed to be ‘handled’?
The very idea of handling them seems rather odd.
It may seem like the best way to handle such a conversation would be to actively participate in it, but what does this really entail?
I’m going to assume that by ‘handling’ you mean something along the lines of participating and contributing in an effortless manner, without having any particular end goal or specific point you want to make.
I think that, ideally, handling a deep conversation would mean finding the right balance between actively engaging in it and simply listening.
As I said earlier: nobody can give their undivided attention to just one side of a conversation without getting distracted by their own thoughts.
The Challenge of Connecting With Others
One of the biggest challenges people face in connecting with others is their need for approval.
Everyone wants to be accepted and loved by everyone else, but this is a difficult task that they are often not very good at handling.
These days there is a lot of pressure on individuals to succeed in school, get into a good college or university, find an interesting job after graduation, make lots of money working hard at it then settle down and have children when they’re old enough.
The list goes on and on.
But people are not perfect; they’re often too lazy or unmotivated to do everything that is expected of them.
They might give up at the first sign of failure, which leads to feeling bad about themselves and feeling like a failure in general.
It might be a good idea to try and see the school, college, the working world, or whatever for what it is — a bunch of things that you’re supposed to do.
Most people have never heard of Buddhism before in their lives, but they still manage to get by fine because at some point they surrendered control over their own lives.
People should not try to control everything that happens in their lives, because doing so can only lead to self-doubt and feelings of helplessness.
They should accept that life is a journey with many things they have no control over, and just do what they’re supposed to do without worrying about the results.