How does your connect-o-meter work?

Let me be the first to say I’m not crazy about the term “connect-o-meter”. It’s cheesy. I know. However, sometimes cheesy works precisely because it’s cheesy. It’s memorable. It brings levity, helping to make the difficult more doable.

The connect-o-meter was initially a joke that started between me and my partner early on in our relationship. As introverts, we get deeply immersed in our alone time, making the transition into couple time bumpy and awkward, with both of us quick to be offended and hurt. The patterns that make it hard to reconnect run deep in both of us, of course, but we were committed to changing them. We just didn’t quite know (yet) how to ease and/or accelerate through the bumps and awkwardness.

So, one day, after about 3 hours of bumping along and wanting to just fast-forward into being connected, I turned to Jonathan and blurted “I wish we had a connect-o-meter so we could see where we are on it! Then we would know what to do!”

“Well, “ he said, “let’s make one. 0 = total disconnection and 10 = total connection. I’d say I’m at 6.5. How about you?” I was at a 6 and it was immediately useful to know that we weren’t so far apart. It was a “data” point that countered the “story” my crazy mind was making up. I felt more connected already!

We starting talking about where where we started 3 hours ago, what actions helped us get to 6ish, what level of connection we wanted and needed, and what actions would help us get there. We discovered it was pretty simple things that strengthened our connection - sitting on the couch and sharing what had been on our minds and in our hearts since we had been apart, a few kisses and hugs of welcome, hearing “It’s good to be with you”.

That was four years ago and we still use it today. The cool thing is that we’ve developed a bunch of “connection short-hand” so we can move towards it with much more ease and efficiency. I find efficiency a weird thing to think about relative to connection, especially romantic connection, because it’s such an “un-human” word and concept. Yet having “connection efficiency” means we have a lot more energy and time available to us since we don’t burn it up in worrying and arguing.

As my business name suggests, I believe connection works, that connection is what you need if you want to do great things. I believe that applies to all relationships, whether at work, at home, or in community. This belief has been proven to me again and again across so many relationships, especially those at work, where disconnection has resulted in confusing discussions that go round-and-round as people miss each other, poor decisions based on limited understanding that only fall apart later, poor quality products for the same reasons, missed deadlines because disconnection makes everything harder and take longer.

Of course, living the belief that connection is what you need if you want to do great things gets tricky. What kind and how much connection is enough to do great things? According to who? But this is where connect-o-meters really, really come in handy, starting with your own. First you have to know what is enough connection for you and what creates it or diminishes it?

I can hear you saying now, “Well, it depends on the situation and the person.” Of course it does, AND there are patterns to be found and I invite you to find a few of yours.

  • Think of a few colleagues with whom you have a good connection with, where your connection makes it easy and productive to work together. What makes it a good connection for you?

  • Think of a few colleagues with whom you do NOT have a good connection with, where your disconnection makes it hard and unproductive to work together. What creates the disconnection for you?

Becoming familiar with how connection works for us makes our work and lives better in at least 3 important ways:

  1. It builds our self-awareness, which brings us more choice around the quality of connection we have in our relationships. Without self-awareness, we live our own version of Groundhog’s Day or to be more contemporary, Russian Doll, trapped in the same patterns of connection or worse, disconnection.

  2. With self-awareness about how connection works for us, we can take responsibility for creating the conditions for good connections. It is less mysterious, less “it’s either there or it’s not”.

  3. When we take responsibility for creating the conditions for good connections, we bring a different level of attention, intention, and, hopefully, curiosity. What is the quality of connection right now? What do I need? What do they need? Have a few of these conversations and pretty soon you’ll have a connection efficiency going with your colleagues and team members.

I hope you spend some figuring out how your connect-o-meter works. Start with just observing the quality of your connections with others. Notice what improves and diminishes connection. Then, the next time a conversation with a colleague hits a bumpy spot, sketch out a connect-o-meter, share where you are, and ask where they are. Throw one up on the whiteboard the next time your team gets stuck and ask people where they are. Ask for one action or practice that you could do right now, in the moment, to improve your connection and see what happens. I suspect great things — or at least, surprising things that shift the patterns of connection in productive ways.