At the end of an executive coaching engagement a few months ago, I interviewed a few key people to provide some closing feedback for my client.

During the interviews, someone made the following comment about my client:

“What is different about her is that she genuinely connects with people. Her predecessors were leaders that treated you like you were in a business transaction—a mere resource that was to be used and that was totally expendable when no longer of use. She forms a connection with you that makes you want to perform at your best and not disappoint her because of the relationship…”

His comments made me stop and think about this “transactional” tone dominating our relationships, organizations, and lives. We are taught that business is business, and that we are operating more in transactions rather than personally.   Nothing is personal.

What is flawed about this paradigm is that human beings are by nature, “personal”.

In Matt Lieberman’s book “Social”, he compiles and presents current brain research that makes the compelling case that human beings are indeed social beings. He asserts that we are internally wired to long for and need “connection” with one another. He discusses how “social pain” is as real to our brains as physical pain, and that ignoring the realities about our make-up as human beings has lasting consequences on our overall life satisfaction.

In organizations we seek to unveil the mysterious formula that will lead to better employee engagement. We send leaders to development programs to create the secret sauce to engage employees.

Could one of our answers be as simple as the fact that we are ignoring our fundamental human need to connect with others at a deeper level?

What if we took a more personal approach and ditched the transactional one we are so accustomed to using?

Here are three behaviors that will help you start to move out of a transactional interaction and begin to deepen your connection with those around you:

1. Show interest in and learn from everyone

Do you believe that everyone has something to teach you? Or do you think you can only learn from experts and those above you in stature or experience? Believing you have something to learn from everyone enables you to slow down, ask more questions and pay attention to people and things you may have been dismissing as transactions.

2. Suspend your tendency to judge

Quick judgment is rewarded—it also helps us move quickly and guides our focus and attention. It is also a key deterrent to connecting with others. When we judge someone, whether it is their intentions, their competency, or whatever, we either cease to listen or listen with the filter of our judgment. Marilee Adams’ brilliant little book, “Change Your Questions, Change Your Life”,  points out how merely changing our mindsets from a “Judger” mindset to a “Learner” mindset can transform our relationships and our lives.

3.  Acknowledge the good you see

The feedback my client received about her connection with others had a unanimous common denominator. They all commented about how much she acknowledged the good things they did. She went of her way to tell each person what went right, rather than seek out what went wrong. It wasn’t that she didn’t give some very tough feedback– quite the contrary. But the key factor was that she really saw and pointed out the magnificence inside of others before they even saw it in themselves.  Do you see the good in people and focus on it?

If we are indeed wired with a need to connect—what do you need to do today to deepen your own genuine human connections?

As always, drop me a note with your comments and experiences.