Inner Realm: The enormous power of micro connections
Micro-connections are different from long relationships. Think about them as the micro-bits that ….. add hue and shape to moments enriching even our enduring relationships. If we want to shift the quality of our relationships, we must shift the quality of the moments of interaction ……..
Micro-connections are different from long relationships. Think about them as the micro-bits that… add hue and shape to moments enriching even our enduring relationships. If we want to shift the quality of our relationships, we must shift the quality of the moments of interaction…
Sometime ago, I met one of the ministers of a large state, during one of my postings. The meeting barely lasted 15 minutes, but was mutually respectful and focussed a lot on work as well as some aspects of our children’s lives.
One year later, in one of the meetings, I happened to meet the same person, who was now a governor. I was a bit apprehensive, not sure whether he would recognise me. Introducing myself and trying to remind him of the context of our earlier meeting wasn’t something I was looking forward to. However, even as I debated inside, he extended a warm handshake and enquired about my children. He remembered exactly what they were doing overseas, my worries about them and queried of me gently, whether my concerns were over or not. If nothing else, the handshake and the words were very touching. I felt joyous and grateful for hours.
The Sama Veda says:
“This person is mine, and this one is not’ is a false perception of ignorant and selfish individuals. For those who have realised and live in the abundance of knowledge and wisdom, the entire world is their family”
This verse, apart from explicating the oneness of all creation, also highlights the importance of empathic and compassionate social connections, however short they may be. Since the entire creation is indelibly interlinked, the corollary is that any beneficial association not only enriches the other, but also enriches us.
Professor Jane Dutton says that experiences like the one I have described are “high-quality connections.” Research suggests that such micro-connections are vital for our well-being — yet they are getting scarce in society. Time and performance pressures, inattention, distraction and overload are undermining our ability to connect. This can be one of the reasons for the rise of stress and mental health issues.
While easy to overlook, these momentary interactions are highly consequential. Profound connections like the one described “light us up” with energy and a sense of vitality as we mutually respond to one another. They also involve what psychologist Carl Rogers called unconditional positive regard, seeing one another in a favourable and accepting manner. Studies have shown that these miniscule connections, improve our overall health, well-being, and sense of belonging, bolster our psychological safety, make us more resilient, and even contribute to our longevity. In fact, as Dr Sutton remarks that it may not be overstating the case to say that we are on this earth to connect with one another.
Micro-connections are different from long relationships. Think about them as the micro-bits that link us to strangers, but also add hue and shape to moments enriching even our enduring relationships. If we want to shift the quality of our relationships, we must shift the quality of the moments of interaction that comprise those associations.
Relationships we build with people out of respect and admiration with a desire to learn and benefit from their wisdom is what Rishis call Sattvic. Relationships we get by default i.e by birth or being in a place, as well as the relationship we endure for the sake of our survival, are “Rajasic”. Relationships we make for meeting our desires or our needs, are branded as “Tamasic” (source: Vedic Management).
Rajasic and Tamasic relationships may yield some joy, depending upon the people, but they also provide pain, sometimes long-lived agony. Sattvic relationships may also not remain so always—they may venture into realms of Rajas or Tamas.
However, we tend to endure painful relationships often due to fears.
“What will happen if I lose this job? Who is going to pay for my sustenance? Where will I go? etc” mostly come from, and are the foundations of Rajasic and Tamasic relationships.
When we realise the source of all sources, the one and only sustainer, the indelible connections we share with the infinity, with everyone else, fears will reduce and ultimately vanish. There will no longer be any desire to sustain such relationships and we can easily step out of them—releasing our agony and fear.
Coming back to science, whilst we may not be able to instantly repair toxic relations, we can nevertheless enrich the world with our micro-connections. While changing patterns of relating can seem difficult or even impossible, watching for moments of high-quality connection gives us places to start.
A desired condition for high-quality human connection is to see another person as worthy or valuable. Respect is like a gift of social worth, a gift that is given by how we treat each other. We can give others our full attention, tuning in to them, removing distractions, making eye contact, and listening actively. When we aren’t fully present with another person, they feel it.
After all, the Bible says
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19 (NIV)
In the context of our workplace, we bestow respect when we convey that we’ve genuinely heard someone, using bodily gestures such as nodding or smiling. We can ask questions to engage with genuine interest and curiosity. And, finally, we convey respect when we affirm others.
Once again in the workplace as well as in life, research indicates that many relationships can be repaired with empathic micro-connections. We can ‘task enable’ them. Non-material support, such as providing attention, encouragement, information, or mentorship helps a lot.
Studies also reveal that active trust builds connections and relationships. Micro-connections of trust make people feel safer. We communicate trust through words and deeds. By believing in their integrity and intentions.
The Bible provides us with the importance of such micro-connections by affirming that
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, …. we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:4-5 (NIV)
Once you start practising new ways to show respectful engagement, communicate trust, and enable others to succeed, you’ll quickly find that learning how to micro-connect will repair many Tamasic and Rajasic connections. Providing us and others with fulfilling, healthy, and a more purposeful existence.
(The author is a former principal chief commissioner Income Tax. Views expressed are his own.)