The Love and Connection Daily Practice

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For a long time I’ve been fascinated by people who effortlessly mix with new people, make great conversation and still manage to relax and enjoy the moment. If only we could all do this! Well, the good news is that we can be better, much better at connecting with people, we can be more comfortable expressing ourselves and we can make a great impression on other people once we become more accepting of ourselves and others.

It all comes down to taking charge of how you feel and think when you are socializing. If you feel happy, relaxed and positive then it’s much easier to talk freely and confidently without self doubt tripping you up. And that’s why I designed the Love and Connection Daily Practice, to give you a simple way to make steady progress in how you manage your emotional state while also allowing you to become more comfortable being yourself when you connect with other people. And yes, if you take a few minutes daily to follow this simple daily practice you’ll get better and better at connecting with people.

One word of warning. This daily practice goes deeper than a set of tried and tested conversation starters, it goes to the heart of what makes for great conversation skills, it’s the source that ignite friendships and relationships with the authentic energy that gets people talking and enjoying time together. Still, these fundamentals are not exotic, they’re not mysterious and they’re not complicated. For these reasons many people will miss the value of the daily practice. The magic is in practicing for a few minutes a day and enjoying the sure but steady progress that results in how you feel about yourself and others. It’s similar to how people might react when they see a movie star with the perfect body, they admire the end result but they don’t really want to see the simple fundamentals of daily exercise and diet that produced the magical results.

Be brave, take a few minutes a day for the next seven days to test this for yourself and you’ll notice you start to feel happier, more socially confident and more connected to the people in your life. And you may even notice that you’re happy before you interact and that you’re interacting to share that joy with others – that’s when the magic happens. It means you’ve started to acquire the warm glow that popular people take for granted, that attractive quality that draws people to you.

Let’s get started and discover the four elements of the Love and Connection Daily Practice.

1. Kindness

The first element of the daily practice is to perform one act of kindness for a stranger. This can be as simple as helping someone by opening a door, letting a busy mom with kids go before you at the checkout or smiling at a stressed out waitress and asking her how she is. It doesn’t matter how small or seemingly insignificant the gesture is. That’s not the point of this exercise, the point is to be on the look out to help just one person each day. And do it to give not to get. It doesn’t matter if the person you help ignores you or fails to even thank you. The reward comes in feeling you are connected to everyone you meet in your day and the knowledge that you can reach out and interact with anyone you choose to connect with.

When this becomes a daily habit you’ll notice you are like a superhero always on the look out to make a difference and you’ll also be amazed to see how many little opportunities pop up each day where you can make a difference for someone, you’ll ultimately stop seeing strangers as distant and removed but as people you’ve just not connected with yet. You’ll also gradually shift from being passive to being more proactive when you meet people, the mall will be a place where you can meet and talk to anyone, the city streets can become meeting places and anywhere you are an opportunity could present itself to show kindness for a stranger.

I guarantee you one thing. If you’ll help just one stranger a day with an act of kindness you’ll be happier and feel more connected to everyone. You’ll also notice that many people are craving for a smile, the chance to talk to someone or just to know that someone cares enough to notice them. When that realization hits you it becomes obvious that almost everyone else is just like you, stuck in that passive attitude of waiting for someone else to make the first move.

(Obviously only approach strangers in safe environments)

2. Gratitude

The second trait to develop is an attitude of gratitude. And specifically, gratitude for the people in your life. You already have people who care about you, want the best for you and appreciate you just for being yourself. Unfortunately we all seem to get caught up in fixating on what’s not working, who’s let us down and what annoys us about the people closest to us. This then becomes a festering mess of negativity that pollutes our relationships and friendships while making us reluctant to get to know more people – why take on even more aggravation?

To counteract that negative outlook we will work the gratitude muscle, we’ll choose to be grateful for ten people in our life. This is very simple, ask yourself – who am I grateful for? Count out ten people. And it’s ok to have some or even all the same people on your list each day. And even better, you don’t need a good reason or a carefully thought out justification to include someone. Any reason is acceptable. Did someone at work help you to get your project completed on time? Are you grateful you have a brother? Did your neighbor give you a birthday card? You can see what I mean, any reason will do, and in some cases, you may even be grateful someone is in your life without even needing a reason.

This is so simple that many people will miss the whole point of this exercise. It’s only when you take a minute each day to consider ten people you are grateful for that you’ll see what this can do for you. You’ll feel closer to the people in your life and open to meeting more great people. In fact, anytime you want to put a little spring in your step, you can take a moment to ask yourself: who am I grateful for?

3. Love Yourself

This is a key element of the daily practice. The more you love and accept yourself the less you will need the approval and endorsement of those around you and when this happens you will be more relaxed, more present for others and less fearful about sharing your thoughts and feelings. The more you love yourself the more you will allow your true self to shine, you’ll be more expressive and your unique authentic personality will attract people to you.

For these reasons it’s very important to give ourselves love and approval and I recommend you take a moment each day to ask yourself: what do I love about myself? Keep going until you come up with ten responses and don’t worry about having ten profound reasons, any reason you love yourself is a good reason. You might find by doing this each day that many of the same reasons pop up and that’s fine too. What’s important is to train yourself to notice that you do care about yourself and to day by day love yourself a little more.

Here are some examples of what you can love about yourself:

- Hair

- Eyes

- Healthy body

- Enthusiasm for life

- Smile

- Positive outlook

- Willingness to support friends

- Commitment to ongoing self improvement

- Can do attitude

- Sense of justice

When you do love yourself more and more you’ll notice that people respond to you differently, it’s as if there is an energetic glow about you that makes people keen to get to know you better. Even if they can’t put a finger on it people will find you more attractive for some reason, they’ll take you more seriously and treat you better. You’ll also tend to associate more with other people who value themselves, when you love yourself more you won’t tolerate poor treatment from negative people, you’ll gravitate to happier people like yourself. Your happier self will now repel the difficult people who you endured in the past and draw happy, positive people to you.

Sounds too easy, doesn’t it? Yes, it is simple and it works so well because there is a multiplier effect when you practice each element of the daily practice. Test it yourself and you’ll see how powerful it can be maintaining a simple daily practice that causes you to feel great and connected to other people.

4. Forgiveness

Forgiveness is another essential quality to pay attention to because if we don’t old resentments and suppressed anger will over time create a wall between us and other people. Previous disappointments, failures and rejections can cause us to fear getting to know people and before we know it everyone is a potential source of pain, trouble and problems. Clearly, that’s a very poor formula for being at your best when you talk to people.

Like the other elements of the daily practice this only takes a minute or so each day. Simply ask yourself: who can I forgive today? Then, run through ten people you choose to forgive, for your benefit not theirs. There is no need to go into a lengthy analysis and a slow, difficult selection of who to forgive and why, simply pick ten, any ten, and run through them quickly. Your brain has all the memories stored away so, for example, if you decide to forgive Lisa, you know and your unconscious knows why, don’t bother diving into the repressed negative feelings from the past.

Do bear in mind that forgiveness is a selfish act, you forgive for your sake and being forgiving has nothing to do with helping or harming anyone else, it’s a gift you give yourself so you can be happier and more positive going forward and less cautious about meeting new people. The more you put the past behind you the less baggage and distortion you’ll bring to the present so you’ll be better able to see people as they are instead of cynically viewing people as potential problems if you don’t keep them at arms length.

After a few days of practicing forgiveness for a minute or so a day you’ll notice how much lighter and freer you feel as you forgive people who’ve wronged you in the past, this letting go is a great feeling. At this stage if you choose you can forgive people in the moment. Let’s say you get poor customer service instead of getting annoyed maybe you’ll choose to take a moment to silently forgive the person. Ironically, your resulting calmness makes you more effective at dealing with the situation since a calm mind produces better solutions than an angry one. When you live like this you’ll be a master of forgiveness and someone who quickly turns every annoying interaction into an opportunity to forgive and feel better in a matter of moments while still resolving issues that need to be dealt with.

And best of all, forgiveness allows the possibility of connecting with more agreeable people because you never shut down out of resentment and overwhelm after talking to difficult people. You are in charge of how you feel and how you interact so you can simply move on and meet friendlier people who appreciate and respect you.

Conclusion

In this post we’ve looked at four key elements which when developed together will make a dramatic difference to your ability to let your personality shine while also enabling you to connect much more easily with others. Kindness, gratitude, loving yourself and forgiveness provide the solid foundation you need to truly be at peace with yourself and others. A few minutes a day will make the world of difference if you follow this simple daily practice. Why? Because in time this practice cultivates new habits that form the basis of how you live and interact all day long.

I have an easy challenge for you. Practice the daily practice for the next 7 days. Take a few minutes a day and simply notice what happens. It might surprise you that something so simple once applied can make such a big difference in your acceptance of yourself and others and in your growing ability to enjoy talking and connecting with the people in your day to day life.

Then, if you continue with the daily practice, after a few weeks this new outlook will become habitual, it’ll becomes the new normal for you. If someone is rude, you silently forgive them in the moment and let it go while still asserting yourself when it’s necessary. If you notice that someone needs a helping hand you step up to commit an act of kindness, if you feel beaten up by the difficulties of the day you pause and notice who you are grateful for and immediately you start to feel lighter and more at peace. If you feel lonely or in need of a good chat you reflect on what you love about yourself, you start to feel happier and you feel that warmth that can fuel a good connection with whoever you choose to reach out to.

The momentum that builds from a few key daily actions is truly impressive. It’s the brick upon brick progress that creates magnificent skyscrapers, it’s the one word after another momentum that writes literary classics and it’s the note by note to record songs that are loved by millions. A simple daily practice can transform your ability to connect with people, all you need to do is perform the simple daily actions and let momentum take care of the rest.

For your convenience here is a summary of the daily practice.

Love and Connection Daily Practice:

1 Perform one act of kindness for a stranger.

2 Who am I grateful for? List 10 people.

3 What do I love about myself? List 10 traits.

4 Who can I forgive today? List 10 people.

 

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How To Say No Without Losing Friends

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I called around to my friend Alison’s house. She looked stressed out and she was rushing around the house looking for something even as her phone buzzed a series of new text messages. She grabbed the phone, let out a deep sigh and frantically texted back. It was a typical day at Alison’s place, I could guess how her day had started.

Around 6 a.m. she woke up after too little sleep and did some work on her computer. Then, she dashed through the morning rush of breakfast, school run and traffic back home to start work from her home office. Only she is constantly interrupted. Her phone never stops buzzing, beeping and ringing. Her boss needs just one more thing done right away and by the way it’s urgent. A neighbour wants her help with a neighbourhood problem, a friend wants her opinion on a web site design, someone else wants her to help run a charitable event and the school principle just asked her to do a small favour.

Alison has a problem and she doesn’t even know it. Her life is such a tailspin of activity and demands coming in from every angle that for her this is normal life. She rarely has time to do what she wants and even though she’s always helping everyone else out she doesn’t feel appreciated. And the sad truth is that most people take her for granted.

And Alison is to blame. She has one fatal flaw that causes all of this daily madness to continue. She can’t say no. I almost never hear her say no to any request for a favour. And the very, very rare times she says no it’s not because she wants to back out it’s because she was already committed to helping someone else. Even then, when she doesn’t say yes she feels guilty about it and she hopes letting people down doesn’t mean that they’ll dislike her.

Alison needs to learn how to say no for two reasons. Firstly, being at everyone’s beck and call is wearing her out and leaving her with no time for herself. Secondly, since she always says yes she is taken for granted, she’s that person you can always call and make unreasonable demands of because she’s so dependable. In other words, her help is expected.

How to Soften the No:

There are four simple ways to say no and take back control of your relationships, friendships and work interactions.

1. Impose a Time Delay on Helping

When you are asked to do something do it on your terms. If you are willingly helping out then you decide when you will do the requested work. Instead of jumping to attention and dropping everything fit it into your schedule in a way that suits you. In many cases this a gentle way to postpone the task or to get the other person to find someone else who can act immediately.

2. Say No with a Reason Why

This is a more direct approach. Instead of being blunt say that you’d love to help out but you can’t because… It’s important to give a good reason and it’s best to be specific. For example, “I’d help out only I’m busy with my cousins birthday party that evening.” If instead you said “I would but I can’t make it” the other person will presume you are lying or just being difficult. That’s why a specific reason is important.

3. Offer Partial Help

Say yes to only part of the request. This is a softer way of letting someone down. It shows you care while also ensuring your own needs are met. Let’s say a friend asks you to spend the weekend helping him landscape his garden, you might say, “I’m free Saturday afternoon and evening so I’d love to help but I’m busy on Sunday with a family meal I have to prepare and serve up.”

4. Train Peoples’ Expectations

If there are people in your life who you always, always say yes to then start saying no from time to time to train people to respect you and not take you for granted. If you are unable to say no then saying yes means nothing. You know it and they know it. For this reason start saying no to minor requests.

Let’s say you are always the one driving everyone home at the end of a night out. Ask your friends to share the work load, tell them you won’t be the taxi driver next week so it’s someone else’s turn. Tell them it’s only fair that you get a night off.

Start doing this and you’ll see a big change in how family and friends treat you. They’ll become more grateful for what you do, you won’t be taken for granted so much and you’ll start to feel genuinely appreciated, because, you now are.

As for Alison. She’s still rushing about like a crazy person and she keeps going until exhaustion forces her to stop. Only then can she say no to people. “I’m not feeling too well right now, I think I’ve caught a bug or something. Let me get back to you when I feel better. Sorry!” I’ve pointed out to her what she’s doing but she isn’t open to change which is entirely her choice.

Don’t use exhaustion and ill health as your only guilt free way to assert yourself and say no. Be creative and start finding your own ways to gently say no so that when you do say yes you really mean it.

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Is Life Friendly?

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It was a hot summer in Hyannis, Cape Cod. The beaches were packed, cars drove by with air conditioned vacationers trying to find somewhere to park and the only place to cool off on a scorching August afternoon was Cape Cod Mall.

I always liked that time of year, even though town was packed, the locals were happy to rake in the money while the sun shined and the tourists were tanned and relaxed. It was also a good time to meet people with all the summer parties and outdoor activities that filled the lazy weeks and sunny weekends.

But I had mixed feelings about meeting new people. Would people like me? Would I say the wrong thing or end up running out of things to talk about? What if I ended up bored and alone at a party, how would I make my exit without offending the hosts? On the other hand it was fun meeting people with common interests. I hoped I’d meet more people I could relate to and I looked forward to meeting genuine people I could enjoy getting to know better.

Anyway, on this hot afternoon, I headed into the mall with my buddy, Craig. He’s the kind of person who can talk to anyone, he could quite happily meet complete strangers and talk to them like he’d known them for years. Surprisingly, he could also be quiet and retiring and he’d often spend his free time at home with his wife either watching TV or doing chores around the house. He’s one of those quiet people who also loves socialising as long as he gets enough time on his own to recharge.

We wandered about in the cool air of the mall and looked around in a few stores. Everywhere we went I’d look at the merchandise and avoid eye contact with the staff so that I wouldn’t be sold to. Craig on the other hand talked and joked with everyone he saw and if he bought something he’d make small talk with the cashier. He’d smile and have fun with people, tell jokes and laugh with whoever he spoke to.

In his eyes, the mall was a place to shop and meet people. He found people to be friendly and fun to talk to. And this wasn’t a random event, everywhere he went it was the same. Why? Because he chose to smile, be friendly and make small talk.

This was an eye opener to me. I always thought shopping was about buying what you want and getting out of the mall as quickly as possible. I didn’t see it as a friendly place. And it wasn’t, I could now see, because I was the one who wasn’t friendly. I was polite and practical about going about my business but it never crossed my mind that I could enjoy getting to know the store staff and even get talking to other shoppers.

The same distinction applies outside the mall in our day to day life. There are countless opportunities to pause and make small talk for a moment with all the people we come into contact with each day. When you do that, two interesting things happen. Firstly, you feel more connected to everyone around you because you are open to talking to anyone. Secondly, other people will look for ways to help you when you talk about what you are up to. For both of these reasons, day to day life then becomes less stressful.

However not everyone gets the friendly treatment from others. It only happens all the time and wherever you go when you lead the way by being open and friendly, when you do that people feel comfortable opening up to you.

Is Your Life Friendly?

It depends on you. If you choose to be friendly, interested in people and open to sharing with whoever you bump into each day then life will magically become friendlier. If you smile more, make eye contact and say hello to more people then not surprisingly you’ll find you become much more approachable. And that’s the key. Very often we don’t even notice that we are giving off signals that say – stay away, don’t talk to me!

That’s exactly what I used to do only I hadn’t even noticed until I saw Craig do the very opposite. Interacting with people is very much cause and effect. If you change your approach you’ll immediately see different results. If you become friendlier, life will be friendlier.

If it’s that easy, what stops us being more open with people? In one word… fear. We worry that we’ll be rejected, ignored or judged. Thankfully, there is an outlook that can help you with these fears.

Decide that meeting people is a sorting process. Of all the people you ever meet your goal is to sort for kind, decent and friendly people who’ll treat you with respect. You goal is not to be liked, loved and adored by everyone because that’s a fantasy that will never happen for you or for anyone else no matter how wonderful they are.

Imagine then that you bump into someone socially, your goal is to start off with small talk to find if you have things in common to talk about while also paying attention to how this person interacts with you. If you’re smiling, friendly and attentive but the other person is aloof, disinterested or in any way disrespectful then that’s your first warning sign. It’s now up to this person to prove themselves to you, it’s not up to you to try harder to win their approval. If despite some conversational flexibility on your part there is no hope of progress then you know you didn’t meet a good match. It’s then time to move on and talk to more people in search of a good match.

The people in our lives are going to have differing degrees of connection, commonality and compatibility with us. Accept that and allow it to be. Don’t try to force a relationship to be what it can never be. When you look at making conversation in this way it takes a lot of the pressure off and allows you to meet people, search for matches and to enjoy each connection for what it is. You then become more relaxed and easier to talk to, you become the kind of person that is accepting of others and sincerely interested in getting to know them. This in turns makes you more likeable. Do this and one day soon you’ll discover that life is as friendly as you allow it to be.

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