Driving past the new BONDS Christmas campaign poster yesterday, I was hit by the simple message for this season and it made me questions, “How strong are the bonds I have in my life?”. We are often inundated this time of year with the activity and planning of get-togethers, parties and events. So much so that the attending and enjoying part can get a little rushed or under-appreciated.
That is, the time we bond and connect with those we are meeting can lose its impact. Many researchers and emotional intelligence experts will say that if you are keen to improve connections with those around you or your goal is to forge new bonds or further existing ones – self-awareness and mindfulness is key.
Self-awareness is a skill that in some people is second nature. They have an imaginary self sitting on their shoulder giving them real-time feedback during interpersonal interactions that can help predict their reactions to situations and guide their input to maintain their bonds with the people around them. Some other people require mindful practice and coaching to get there and they might lose friends or be passed over for opportunities while they learn what impact they are having.
Being mindful has many benefits for your health and longevity but can also help you bond successfully with new connections and strengthen the ones you already have. A key part of this is being present at the moment and giving someone the best gift you could ever give – your attention. As a Learning and Development specialist for many years and now a mum of three young boys – I can tell you when this is missing in your audience, chaos can follow. But more often your interactions will be clouded by misunderstandings and missed opportunities to bond.
Another key part of mindfulness is reflection. What was the impact of holding your attention during the interaction? Did it improve your bond with that person? What else might work next time to help create a new bond or strengthen an existing bond? What did you enjoy about the conversation/meeting? Keeping a journal of these answers will help you to visualise and improve too. These questions can help redirect your skills for the next opportunity to interact and help also to identify the areas you were grateful for or that sparked joy for you. After all, we are more likely to continue on a path to bond with others in a way that is enjoyable, right?
So while this is a season for fun activity and planning, focus your energy more on the actual time you spend with the people around you and the strength of the bonds you make.