How to Connect With Someone (Even If There Is a Real Chance of Rejection)
In his book, “Never split the difference”, ex-FBI Hostage Negotiator Chris Voss talks about how
negotiation is an emotional practice. In 1979, the Harvard Negotiation Project was founded with
the goal of improving the practice of negotiation. The outcome of the project was a treatise
whose core assumption was that the “emotional brain – that animalistic, unreliable, and irrational
beast – could be overcome through a more rational, joint problem-solving mindset”.
Of course, when the FBI implemented this in their hostage negotiation situations, they were met
with abject failure. It caused them to rethink this “rational problem solving” approach to resolving
crisis situations because these situations were anything but rational. Voss remarks, “I mean,
have you ever tried to devise a mutually beneficial win-win solution with a guy who thinks he is a
messiah.” It was glaringly obvious that reason, rational, logical thinking wasn’t saving the day.
In our everyday lives, we face crises of a smaller yet of no less intensity.
Our crises can range from getting your toddler to eat the food that he is refusing to eat as you
get late to work, your 14-year-old refusing to change into appropriate clothes for a function you
are taking her to, your 10-year-old son refusing to listen to you, but would willingly listen to
everyone else. These are such emotionally charged situations where the connection with your
child or partner is the last thing on your mind as you try to negotiate your way from one situation
But there is a deep yearning to connect with another person. You want to experience the feeling
of deep connection that comes with a close relationship with a child or a partner or a friend. So
what happens when the connection is a casualty in day to day living. How can you build a
connection where there is no time? How can you build a connection when there is a lot of
resistance? How can you build a connection when you want someone to get things done your
Before we explore how to connect, let’s explore three reasons which stop the connection from
happening with another person. As you read this, take a pause and think of a situation where
you wanted to connect with someone and the connection didn’t happen.
The unscrupulous might of the hidden agendas
That’s not the only hidden agenda we are speaking about here, but a subtler form of hidden
agenda. We get into an interaction with our 10-year-old, what is our primary purpose of that
interaction? It is mostly to get him or her to do something our way. In that interaction, the
connection isn’t happening because the hidden agenda guides our actions, words and body
language. We assume that when we interact with another person, connection happens by
default. That doesn’t happen when you are focused on an outcome and not on the process of
connection. The key to connection is when you are focused on the process of connection, and
not the agenda you have in mind.
The fallacy of pseudo connections
Connection happens from the place of present and presence, whereas disconnection happens
when you are either dwelling on the past or looking into the future. When your mind is clouded
by what has happened in the past interactions with that person or is engaged in various
permutations and combinations of what the person is going to react, then you have the perfect
recipe of disconnection, even if you are trying to connect. So the key to creating a connection is
to erase the memories of the past, anticipation of future and to be completely present with that
person in the moment.
Making the choice of no connection
There might be situations that come to your mind when you have been in the present, put your
best foot forward, had no hidden agendas but you weren’t still able to establish a connection
with the other person. This is simply because the other person has made a choice not to
connect with you. It is important to realise that in an interaction that involves 2 or more people,
you and the other people have a choice to engage or not engage in a connection. The idea is to
not take this personally but to let go of it at the moment. You can come back to this at a later
point in time and try to establish a connection, maybe things would be different then.
So having seen three reasons as to why connection may not happen, let’s look at a framework
that we can use in our quest to establish a connection with another person. It can be
remembered easily by the acronym ROAR – Relax, Observe, Acknowledge, Reflect. Let’s go
into a bit of detail around each of these aspects.
Relax: The most underestimated yet crucial aspect of any interaction or connection is the ability
to be relaxed. To relax means to be at ease, to be okay with any outcome of the interaction and
to be completely present. In a practical sense, consciously relax your body, take a few deep
breaths and check in with yourself.
Observe: Then observe the facts, not evaluations or judgements as and when they come up in
the interaction. Observe the thoughts that come up with regards to any specific objective you
want to achieve during this connection. Observe yourself and the other person with curiosity to
notice what is going on. It is important to keep an open mind during the process of observation.
Acknowledge: As you observe check in with the feelings that go along with the observation.
Notice and acknowledge whatever is coming up and stay with the feelings – without wishing
them away or wanting more of it. Stay as a silent witness and acknowledge everything that’s
Reflect: Most of our instinctive response to any feeling or sensation (or situation) is one of
reaction, not a reflective response. So take this opportunity once you’ve relaxed, observed,
acknowledged to reflect on the situation, your objectives for connection and to actively choose
Let’s take a situation where you are meeting a friend after many years with whom things didn’t
end well, and there’s a lot of tension between you. This process of ROAR can be used in
preparation for the meeting or during the meeting, even when things start to turn awkward. Use
ROAR to relax first, observe what’s going on within you and what’s happening in the space
between the two of you, the thoughts that go along with the observation, acknowledge whatever
feelings or sensations are coming up during this process without fighting them and then reflect
on your observations, feelings to choose a response to the situation.
Using ROAR can be an effective way to take a pause in a situation.
And it can be very powerful to give us a range of choices or options to choose in terms of
response to any given situation. This is an active process of listening that’s used by a lot of
professionals in emotionally charged situations, so give it a try for using it with your
child/partner/family/friends/bosses/employees and let us know how it turned out.
Article written by Shirisha Nagendran