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What it is and how to maintain it
Many of you have probably heard complaints from your partner about “not feeling connected.”
If you have not spent some time considering your own emotional needs, you may have no idea of what s/he is talking about.
Here I will address three basic questions: What does it mean to feel connected? How do two people get disconnected? What can be done to minimize the problem of disconnection?
What does it mean to "feel connected"?
Basically, feeling connected means feeling in touch with someone who cares about us.
Most people acknowledge that children need to feel a safe attachment to an adult who cares for them.
The reality is that adults also need a secure attachment to another adult.
Each of us has an innate need to feel safely attached to another person who will be there in our times of physical or emotional need.
When we enter into a committed relationship, this need actually intensifies due to the hope that this one special person will consistently be there for us.
Specifically, we hope that this one adult will meet our emotional needs in three ways. (Susan Johnson, 2008).
1. Can I get your attention when I need it?
When I ask for your attention, can you be available to me? Can you listen to what I am saying?
Am I a top priority to you? To sum up, Are you accessible to me?
Will you make some effort to comfort me in those situations? In other words, Are you responsive to me?
3. Do you care about my well-being even when we are not together? I need to know that you care about my joys, hurts, and fears.
Will you care about me consistently and reliably? Are we truly engaged in each other’s lives?
How do two people get disconnected?
Often the offending partner is not even aware of the behavior that led to a loss of connection or the threat to secure attachment.
It is not humanly possible to stay constantly tuned in to your partner’s emotional needs.
Even if you are both trying to be attentive, you may miss each other’s signals about sensing detachment.
In the case of one of my therapy couples, Kari became accustomed to getting an affectionate hug from Jim every evening before going to sleep.
When the hug went missing for several nights in a row, she began to feel a disconnection from him.
It seemed to her that he had stopped feeling affection for her, which signaled to her that their attachment was no longer secure.
This triggered a deep fear in Kari. Jim missed the signals of her emotional distress and was unable to reassure her of his commitment before they spiraled down into an argument about “how cold and unloving he was.”
All couples have instances of emotional disconnection.
Many times, these lead to complaints, defensive reactions, and heated arguments.
What can we do to minimize the distress and the arguments that usually result?
Here are three steps involved in avoiding the arguments that result from disconnection:
1. Become aware of the patterns of your arguments,
2. identify emotional triggers that lead you and your partner to feel the loss of connection, and
3. learn to ask for and to provide comfort.
1. Many arguments fall into recognizable patterns.
To illustrate one common pattern, I will again use the example of my therapy couple.
Kari stops receiving hugs and files a complaint to Jim.
She feels disconnected due to the loss of affection, but rather than saying that she tells him that he is “not affectionate enough.”
Jim defends himself; he has been preoccupied lately and caught up in his own thoughts at night.
Kari then feels further disconnected because she has filed her complaint and is still not getting what she needs – a sign of his ongoing love for her.
Her increased frustration quickly escalates to anger because now she feels “not heard” or “ignored.”
Her increased anger leads Jim to shut down emotionally, hoping that somehow her anger will stop if he does not react to it.
This strategy fails, of course. It is no more effective (or advised) to ignore a distressed spouse than it is to ignore a distressed child. Both need comfort and reassurance.
Let’s consider another pattern, that of finding out “who’s to blame.” John files a complaint with Sara that her 12-year-old daughter (his step-daughter) is a “spoiled brat.”
Sara spends much of her evening and weekend time driving her daughter to various activities, leaving John feeling lonely.
Neither of them recognizes that John is feeling sad and left out.
Sara responds to the criticism of her daughter with the accusation that John is not making an effort to bond with the child.
Now John is feeling both left out and inadequate, which is overwhelming for him and triggers more angry comments from him, in an attempt to put the blame back on Sara.
It is critical to recognize the pattern of arguments between partners and to see them for what they really are: pleas for a sign that the other person cares.
2. Each of us has emotional triggers that cause our innate fear of abandonment to spike.
Sue Johnson calls these our “raw spots.” Partners unintentionally hurt each other’s emotional raw spots. When we learn to identify these sensitivities in ourselves and in each other, we can make an effort to avoid them.
In my sample case, Kari is sensitive to a loss of affection and to “being ignored.” Jim is sensitive to being criticized as “cold and unloving.”
John's sensitivities include feeling left out and feeling inadequate.
3. The final step sounds simple but may take a lot of practice.
We often have misguided ideas about how to get our emotional needs met.
Too often, we expect a partner to know what we’re feeling and what type of comfort we need.
This is unrealistic.
Kari might have simply asked Jim for a hug when she needed some affection from him.
A second hurdle to getting through step 3 is the fact that many of us were raised with messages such as “Don’t express feelings,” “Don’t be vulnerable,” or “Don’t let them see you cry.”
We may have even been ridiculed for having feelings.
These types of messages must be seen as preventing two loving adults from expressing the need for comfort from each other.
The better message to tell yourself is: Have courage, and trust that your partner loves you. S/he wants the connection as much as you do.
There may be times when the other person's attention is focused upon other matters, but be patient and reach out in a loving way.
For professional help in sorting out your feelings about connection, see a therapist experienced in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.
(Note that the names used for the sample therapy couples are fictional.)
10 Signs You Have a Genuine Emotional Connection with Someone
Do you wonder if you have a genuine emotional connection with your partner?
This question makes much sense when we are talking about new relationships.
In the beginning stages of a relationship, determining if you have a strong emotional connection with your partner can be quite tricky.
Maybe you’re questioning if your feelings for your partner are truly genuine, or if he or she is as invested as you are in the relationship.
Or, maybe you’ve hit it off physically and you have no idea whether there’s something there. A connection perhaps?
Or just a one-night stand.
Or lastly, you might be looking for signs that your partner feels the same deep love and connection to you, which means that he or she will continue to be a part of your life in the near and far future.
Well, in today’s post, we’re discussing the 10 most significant signs that tell whether you or your lover have a genuine emotional connection towards each other:
1. You Won’t Be Afraid to Display Your Weirdest Habits
A genuine connection brings more than feelings.
It brings a lot of fun to the table, as you and your spouse won’t be afraid to show off your weirdest habits.
A very weird morning routine?
Whatever it is, displaying it won’t be a problem, simply because the person you’re sharing all this weirdness with will not judge!
2. Communication Will Go Smoothly and Easily – Never Forced
The communication between you and your partner can tell a lot about the strength of your emotional connection.
Soul mates can talk for days without boring each other.
People that are in for the physical part will barely have to talk about common subjects.
That’s why one-night stands are 90% action and 10% talk.
However, when there’s an interesting connection between two people, both will want to take it slowly and enjoy the prelude.
3. You Can Joke Around without Taking It Personally
A strong emotional connection changes people.
If a few months ago you’d judge what your spouse had to say, now you might feel that almost nothing can affect you, because you can feel that those things are not meant to affect you.
They’re meant to be fun, interesting, or to capture your attention.
You two can joke around without carrying bad feelings after teasing each other.
4. You Won’t Seek an Opportunity to Get in Touch – You’ll Just Do It
Considering that the two of you are not living together, calling and texting will be frequent.
If you’re in love with someone, you’ll never need a reason to get in touch.
You’ll simply do it without questioning your motives.
But the motives could be many: you might want to see how she/he is doing, might want to find out the time for your next date, or you might simply want to express the fact that you’re missing her/him.
5. How Others Perceive Your Relationships is Irrelevant to You
A strong emotional connection will destroy any concern that might come from other people’s judgments.
If there’s something with your partner, something special, something that you recognize as unique, nobody else’s opinion will matter.
Whether your parents, friends, or best friends agree with your relationship or not, that’s only their concern.
Feelings are stronger than opinions!
6. Your Partner Will Give Your Space Without Questioning You
Every time you need to do something on your own, your spouse will understand without giving your headaches.
We all know how annoying questioning can be, and that’s exactly what we don’t want to see in our romantic relationships.
Considering that there’s a significant connection between the two of you, both you and your spouse won’t feel the need to question each other.
Space is very important in any type of interpersonal relationship.
In a romantic relationship though, the common respect and understanding for each other’s private needs will determine the quality of time spent together.
7. You’ll Be Able to Talk Openly About Your Feelings
If you feel the need to say something, you will say it and so will your lover.
When the emotional connection between you two is reciprocal, talking about each other’s feelings will be extremely pleasant and easy.
Besides the alcohol that makes you talk about feelings with much ease, love is also a predominant trigger for this behavior.
The stronger are your feelings for someone, the stronger is the urge to express them.
8. You’ll Disagree Without Showing Lack of Respect
When you don’t like something about your partner, you won’t feel reluctant to speak it out loud.
That’s the most important thing – to feel confident that your remarks will bring a positive change and that the effort is worth it.
Even if your spouse doesn’t take it very well, it’s the right thing to do.
For both of you!
However, when you’re truly connected to someone, disagreeing will not be something that’ll bring conflict, because the remarks do not show a lack of respect.
9. Your Partner Will Always Have Your Back in Difficult Situations.
Soulmates do not always agree with everything.
But when it comes to the most important things in life, concerning values, goals, basic beliefs, and priorities, they are on the same side.
Moreover, whenever you’ll encounter a tough situation, your partner is usually there to help.
10. You Will Share a Powerful Mutual Respect.
Relationships often break up when two people try to change each other.
But close souls accept each other completely because they are proud of each other.
They support their partners in everything and they’re showing unconditional respect to each other.
One of the biggest factors that contribute to so many breakups is the lack of respect.
You never insult, lie, or cheat.
You don’t feel the need to do such things because you know they won’t bring any good to the relationship.
An emotional connection is strong when both partners keep it that way!
An emotional connection is too complex to be labeled as black or white, small or big, fair or not fair. Every connection is special is unique.
There are lots of complexities and variations, but at the same time, it’s all linked to you.
It’s about who you are and what you want.
If deep down you want a wife/husband, you’ll unconsciously look for such qualities in your partner. However, if you want a bad girl/boy, a connection with a nonviolent person will not be as strong (or won’t be at all).
Pay attention to your own desires and tap into your self-awareness – it will help big time!
How To Build An Emotional Connection
What is an emotional connection?
If you listen, are there signs that tell you that you are bonding with someone?
Why is finding that level of emotional security so difficult with the opposite or same sex?
Learn the ins and outs of an emotional connection and why it is necessary to bond emotionally in order to build a relationship.
Defining Emotional Connection
Each person individually defines what an emotional connection means to her, but there is a basic definition that can apply to all people.
An emotional connection is a bundle of subjective feelings that come together to create a bond between two people.
The word emotional means to arouse strong feelings.
The feelings may be anger, sorrow, joy, love, or any of the thousands of emotions that humans experience.
A connection is a bond, a link or tie to something or someone. Interlock the two words, emotional connection, and it becomes a bond or ties to someone with whom you share a particular set of emotions.
Relationships without an Emotional Connection
In order for a relationship to build and become stronger, forge an emotional connection.
Perhaps you are in a relationship with someone you feel strongly about or love. He, on the other hand, seems distant, often holding back thoughts and seldom sharing himself, physically or emotionally.
This sort of relationship might be a friendship or a co-dependent situation of living together or fulfilling a sexual need.
Without a strong emotional connection, it is doomed to frustrate one or both partners and ultimately fail.
The Bonds that Hold A couple that meets and delves into learning as much about each other as possible creates an emotional connection.
Through thoughtful and caring communication, you each learn the intricacies of the other.
You learn what makes him happy, what makes him angry, and what brings him to his knees in joyful celebration.
He learns what brings you to tears, what causes you to smile mysteriously, and what frustrates you.
You each learn the essence of the other and feel compassion and empathy, or share the emotion.
In order for a couple to benefit from the joys of an emotional connection, they must be willing to become vulnerable with each other.
Allowing someone into your inner sanctum of secrets, pain, and joy means taking risks.
A risk of this magnitude demands trust.
When trust is betrayed, the healing is long and arduous.
According to Susan Johnson and Hara Estroff Marano, authors of the article “In the Name of Love” (Psychology Today Magazine, March 1994), “We fall in love when a strong attachment bond is formed. We stay in love by maintaining the bond.”
Without a strong emotional connection, the road to love is blocked.
When the attachment breaks or becomes neglected, love falls to the wayside.
Signs of Emotional Connection
Although every individual’s emotions differ, there is one universal sign that an emotional connection has been made between two people.
A true sign is that both parties invite the other inside.
You share funny stories of what happened at work and you share bad days when everything went wrong.
You are both willing to give each other peeks into childhood dreams and adult aspirations.
The conversation flows easily from one to the other.
Even in silence, a couple creating a strong emotional bond will feel at ease.
You can share anything with your partner without fear that he will flee and he feels the same.
The area of emotional connection is so subjective that each person exhibits different emotions and physical feelings.
She may feel “butterflies” in her stomach each time he calls.
He may finish his sentence or start speaking the same thought at the same time.
Is this a deep bond or just coincidence?
Every person views it differently.
Keep in mind there is a difference between physical attraction and an emotional connection.
Although one may lead to the next, physical attraction is a superficial emotion that begins the journey toward an emotional connection and love.
Marriage and Emotional Connections
An emotional connection in marriage is necessary if the union is to survive the rigors of life.
When one partner comes home to a distant spouse who refuses to share, the marriage suffers. Resentment builds, disagreements ensue and a merry-go-round of hurt and lack of trust keeps the marriage in a state of turmoil.
If you feel you have lost the emotional connection with your partner, try to figure out the cause.
Is there an unforgiving wrong that has caused distance between the two of you?
Perhaps in anger, something was said or done that caused emotional or physical pain.
Maybe one of you just stopped trying due to lack of time or not wanting to face an issue.
Denial comes into play, making it difficult to re-establish the all-important emotional connection.
How to Establish an Emotional Connection
If you want the healthiest relationship possible, learn how to establish a strong emotional connection with your partner.
With this in place, all other areas will flow naturally. Here are seven tips that can help you forge an unbreakable bond:
1. Study Your Partner Understand what your partner needs and wants from life and you. This means paying close attention when he talks.
Look past the words and into his heart where he harbors secrets he wants to share.
2. Trust Develop a sense of trust with each other.
This building block to an emotional connection will not come overnight.
It takes time to develop secure feelings with another person. Let trust build naturally.
3. Emotional Availability
Both of you must be emotionally available to the other.
If you hold back in any way, you are not opening yourself up to the possibilities of a strong connection.
4. Show Affection
A couple in a budding relationship has a little problem showing affection, but married couples suffering from a fraying connection may need to work on being affectionate with each other.
Kiss each other good morning and good night.
Hold hands, hug and rekindle the fires of physical love.
5. Fight Fair
In the midst of a heated battle, words and accusations fly, often hitting an unintended mark.
Learn to fight fair.
If you do not know-how, search for a book or counselor who can help you.
When arguing do not bring up the past.
Stay in the moment and use solid reasons for why you feel the way you do.
6. See the World Through His Eyes
Try to see the world as he does to discover who he really is.
This means stepping back at times to envision why he behaves in certain ways. Observe how he reacts to situations and try to imagine being in his shoes.
Expect him to do the same.
7. Overcome the Obstacles
Couples in faltering marriages often have pressing issues that need to be solved before an emotional connection can be established again.
Define each problem together and then find solutions to alleviate or eliminate the obstacle.
Once the biggest obstacles are conquered, you can begin rebuilding the lost emotional connection.
Emotional connections are complex and subjective but bring so much to the relationship table.
Without building a strong bond, the relationship cannot advance from a simple friendship.
Remaining in a relationship without any emotional connection means one or both people will end up feeling as if something is missing.
And they would be right.
In this case, something is missing: the strong chain that binds two people together and develops into a deep, abiding love that stands the test of time.
Three Ways Leaders Make Emotional Connections
When I first started working in then-Big Six consulting firm Coopers & Lybrand, the partner I was assigned to was a gentleman named Chris Abramson, and he had an enormous scale of responsibility.
Yet whenever I talked with him, which was not that often, he gave me his undivided attention. He talked with me about my goals and my development opportunities.
He shared stories about life (both his and mine) outside the office.
Even in our short conversations, in which he frequently was directing me to do something, he injected some kind of personal remark or comment.
Chris Abramson excelled in one of the most important — and most misunderstood — of leadership skills: making an emotional connection.
Leadership has everything to do with how you relate to others and the quality and texture of those relationships.
The higher up you go in an organization, the less important your technical skills become and the more your interpersonal skills matter.
I’ve seen this confirmed in my work with hundreds of leaders and in reviews of 360-degree feedback data on thousands more.
The ability to make an emotional connection is so often misunderstood because it’s not about being emotional or showing emotion.
It’s about making a human connection — one person to another.
Chris Abramson had the ability to connect on that level with me, with teams, with an entire office of over 600 associates — to show us how important we all were to him and that there was more to our relationship than just the job at hand.
He was a natural, but there are some things the rest of us might do to forge these kinds of connections.
- Like Chris, give people your undivided attention. This sounds simple, but it’s easy to lose sight of. When I feel overloaded in the midst of ringing phones, e-mails by the hundreds, and a gazillion other things to do, I’ll sometimes think about how Chris unfailingly engaged with people in this way, and the energy he brought to and created in those interactions as a result. He made us want to do more because we didn’t want to let him down.
- Be aware that emotions are contagious. Research has shown that a person’s mood can be affected even by three degrees of separation from people they don’t even know. So imagine your impact in the workplace on those who report to you directly. Whether positive or negative, your emotional state has a significant influence on those you work with, especially when you’re the boss. We all have our bad days, but we don’t have to multiply their ill effects. If you’re feeling particularly anxious or negative, make an effort to quarantine yourself — do more of your administrative tasks, avoid situations that might trigger even more stress, take the afternoon off (you may do more harm staying on the job). On the other hand, when you’re feeling especially buoyant, make an effort to spend more time with direct reports, go to more meetings, reach out to others in the organization. Use this time to your advantage and multiply your positive emotions.
- Develop your sense of extraversion. Make no mistake, this is easier said (or written) than done, especially if you’re naturally an introvert. But if you’re a leader, you simply have to develop the ability to reach out to others, engage them in discussion, and actively provide feedback. You’re the one who has to be out in front, taking the lead in developing these relationships. Even introverts can muster the energy to do these things and relate to others. (And then, when you’re exhausted from it, you can sit quietly with a book.)
As leaders, by definition, we do our work through other people, and yet how easy it is to lose sight of that, to focus on the amount of work — the tasks, the output, the jobs to be completed. The irony is, the more you focus on the quality of those connections, the greater your quantity of output is likely to be.
Although 87 percent of organizations listed engagement as a top priority in a recent study, a mere 15% of employees report actually feeling engaged in the workplace.
For employees to perform at their highest levels and be dedicated to the collective success of the organization, they need to love where they work.
They need to feel an Emotional Connection (EC): a motivating sense of satisfaction and intellectual alignment that can only come from feeling appreciated and part of a shared and woWrthy purpose.
When employees see how their work positively affects organizational outcomes, and that it matters to their managers, colleagues, and the wider world, that’s “emotional connection.”
It requires something deeper and longer-lasting than financial incentives. Increasing salaries, offering huge bonuses, and other perk-based plans will not create legitimate, long-term buy-in from employees, despite the cost.
Neither do engagement efforts, as they are often executed by HR departments, which keeps leadership in the dark and detached from the process and from employees.
Employees want the opposite: they want to feel aligned, and connected, with leaders.
When employees feel supported by leaders and able to be themselves, and connect to each other in a deep way, it shifts their perception of their workplace to be “In Great Company.”
It’s a positive dynamic: you are in a place you love to be, you want to give more of yourself, and you choose to add value.
As a result, you are more willing and able to achieve your business goals.
Not only is the state of emotional connectedness possible, but it is also instrumental to organizational success. “Emotional connectedness undoubtedly inspires discretionary effort and passion from our employees and our customers,” said Bob Maresca, CEO of Bose Corporation. Dozens of other CEOs, such as Hubert Joly, Chairman, and CEO of Best Buy, concur.
Leaders need to tend to five critical elements in order to spark emotional connection and improve workplace engagement and productivity.
These elements are ubiquitous, implementation-focused, and together create a great workplace in which everyone is inspired to perform at their peak:
Feeling genuinely respected is the prime reason people love their work and happy to be there.
The sense of emotional connectedness is far deeper in environments where respect is established as a type of social currency and exchanged reciprocally.
Making respect a part of the organization’s ethos and talent management processes, as Starbucks and Wegman’s have—is essential to applying this dimension.
Respect is the element that catalyzes all the others to drive peak performance, the match that sparks the flame.
2. Alignment of values
Employees thrive in organizations that place an emphasis on higher-order qualities such as honesty, integrity, and resonance with personal beliefs.
The emotional connection is established when leaders and peers all embrace common values, and everyone holds each other equally accountable.
Granular practices may be as simple as doing what you say you are going to do, or speaking the truth instead of avoiding it.
More conceptually complex practices include living the values and ethics the company espouses, such as happens in Patagonia and Johnson & Johnson.
3. Positive future
Employees thrive in progress-focused cultures that foster innovation and passion.
Since positivity is a cultural contagion, emotional connectedness is achieved when individuals use it in a unified way to move forward together to achieve results.
Although positivity may seem like a by-product of emotional connectedness, it is also a powerful catalyst for creating an emotionally connected culture — as happens in WD-40 or Big River Steel.
4. Systemic collaboration
Employees feel part of a great company when true and functional collaboration—becomes a part of the inner workings of the organization and its decision-making processes.
Working in small teams, they co-create results using open communication channels, where information and advice for being better in the future are shared freely and frequently.
Companies such as KeyBank and Atlassian observe several specific practices to co-create a sustained connection that drives results.
5. Killer achievement
Killer achievement delivers a combination of financial and emotional upside that amplifies the effect for everyone.
Employees need to be empowered to focus on the customers and critical goals, with extraneous minutia, eliminated.
Objectives should be simply stated, with the system removing competing interests that block the path to success.
This entails identifying and measuring the elements most important to the organization and allowing easy options for leadership, organizational development, and executive coaching.
Companies like Best Buy and Netflix ensure their people can create killer outcomes, keeping the organizations relevant, strong, and innovative.
— — —
It takes leadership buy-in to establish these five elements, and make aligning values, collaborating, co-creating a positive future, giving respect, and focusing on achievement all intrinsic parts of the organization.
Frequent measurements should be made to gauge the changes happening in the organization, establish a consistent pattern of follow-up, and make sure everyone in the company stays involved.
When this dynamic is set into motion in a workplace, everyone is aligned — and willing to do whatever it takes to preserve and grow the business together.
In that scenario, everyone wins.