By Linsey Morrison, Eventbrite
Do you remember your first relationship? I don’t mean that first relationship. I mean the one that reminded you that you’re not alone in this world – that you are connected. Maybe it was a parent, a grandparent, a sibling, or a friend. For many of us, that connection surfaces early in our lives. Our single-digit selves might not understand “empathy,” but through this connection we experience what it feels like to care about someone else and know that they care about us, too. Two people together can channel energy that neither can access as individuals.
For me, my mom comes to mind. That first hug after school would melt away any smirk or shove that soured my day. It allowed all the joy and excitement I experienced to pour out in lengthy enthusiastic stories. Now, as a silver lining of the pandemic, remote work allows me to be that connection, that first hug after school, for my own kids.
Our first connection intrinsically drives us to the next connection. Early on, circumstance and exposure plays an important role in those new bonds. My first best friend was the girl whose last name also began with M, which was closest to me in the alphabet in my elementary school class. Why? Because I stood next to her in line every day when the class had to travel through the school as a group. At six years old, we both instinctively knew that connecting with each other would make that time feel so much better than standing next to each other in quiet solitude. In college, I ate my first meal with my assigned roommate; without each other, we were alone. While I am lucky to still call my first grade line buddy and my first college roommate good friends, we also expanded our circles along the way. Growing up, the opportunity for connection permeated almost every aspect of our lives, from classes to sports to after-school activities. Without too much effort, it was easy to make a connection with another person.
Young adults transitioning from student to career life both experience an intense feeling of personal responsibility and a noticeable decline in the number of people in their relational orbit. The bigger the city, the lonelier it can feel. In a suburb or small town, many people’s lives are designed for isolation, going from home to car to cubicle to car to home. Or, nowadays, from bedroom to desk in the room next door. It is not uncommon for the expectations of adulthood to slowly diminish our circles of accessible connection. While I might still recall that first feeling of connection, and deep down still crave those “relationship endorphins,” the opportunity to create new connections takes more and more effort, at a time when most life circumstances are already quite demanding. As adults, it’s easy to fall out of practice and lose the motivation to build new or deeper connections with others.
Einhorn Collaborative commissioned A Call to Connection in an effort to support leaders in invigorating the habit of forming connections. As its forward suggests, the challenges that we face globally — health, climate, partisanship, alongside social and racial injustices — all demand collaborative action in ways bigger and more impactful than any individual could do alone. The ultimate “Call” points to connection as a fundamental building block for the complex and dynamic repair our world needs. Yet the primer recognizes that as a society, especially after two years of mandated dis-connection, all of us can benefit from the chance to re-learn and dust off our once innate relationship-building skills. The primer encourages us to start small, recognizing how connection enhances our day-to-day goals and experiences.
“The ultimate 'Call' points to connection as a fundamental building block for the complex and dynamic repair our world needs. Yet the primer recognizes that as a society, especially after two years of mandated dis-connection, all of us can benefit from the chance to re-learn and dust off our once innate relationship-building skills.”
For 15 years prior to my shift to social impact, I practiced law at various tech companies focused on strategic transactions. In that work, two companies would come together aligned on a mutually beneficial business goal. First, each side had to address often adversarial and opposing legal needs. I almost always succeeded in creating a connection with the other party’s attorney. We started with the underlying business goal, but also found a hook that we had in common personally — maybe family, an upcoming vacation, or common professional experience — something that made us each more than the attorney across the table. This connection led to a shared understanding of needs, and often created a more productive and fruitful partnership.
While practicing connection may not be as obvious in a professional setting, doing so yields equally compelling rewards. Two people working together will almost always deliver a better outcome than one individual working alone. These opportunities in a corporate setting, whether across the table from a negotiating partner or alongside partners seeking a common goal, also offer a chance to recall our first connection, reminding us of the chance to reclaim that delightful feeling.
“While practicing connection may not be as obvious in a professional setting, doing so yields equally compelling rewards.”
Now I lead Eventbrite’s social impact program, currently focused on building awareness of and remediating social isolation for young people, globally. Through research, open dialogue, and facilitated connection moments, we aim to develop effective interventions and ultimately relieve suffering from the physical and mental health ailments associated with social isolation & loneliness. We can only advance this work in partnership with others. Close connections with those in this space, such as the great people at Einhorn Collaborative, Greater Good Science Center, and Sacred Design Lab, come fairly easily. We are working hard to do something good and immediately share the feeling of standing at the bottom of a mountain; knowing we need each other to get to the top. Our connections with others fuel our collective decisions, our passion, and our determination to effectively address this societal need for our youth.
A Call to Connection tells us that everyday interactions are the first steps towards building the culture of connection we need to drive meaningful societal impact. The key to success on this climb is to start where your feet are planted right now. Incorporate connection as a strategic tool towards meeting your professional objectives. When the instinct resurfaces as second-nature, take it home with you. Be that parent, grandparent, neighbor or friend whose kind word, gesture, or hug offers an invitation to feel how deeply connected we are to each other.