Rethinking Connection: Finding small ways to enact change

If you remember from my blog post a few months ago, Words Matter, what we say to ourselves and those around us shapes our self-esteem and effects the way we feel about our worth and value. This can have detrimental effects on our overall health and well-being.

Stopping long enough to actually listen to what someone has to say, telling someone they matter, or even saying “thank you” when someone opens up the door for you can all have a profound impact on someone’s day, including your own. It does not take a long time - just a few seconds, really - and you can increase that sense of connection and make someone feel valued. And wouldn’t that be nice? To live in a world where we stopped being so busy and overwhelmed and could just slow down and connect with those around us. A world where we could stop chasing the ideals perpetuated about how we need to be or act and just showed up, every day as genuine and kind people.

It’s not impossible, it just takes the willingness to get out of your own way and the courage to stop chasing the norms set for you about what life “should” be and what it means to be worthy and valuable.

So how do you do it? It’s easy. And to make it easier, here are a few simple ideas.

  • Don’t ask people how they are doing unless you actually want to hear how they are doing.

  • Stop saying “I’m fine” or “I’m so busy” every time someone asks you the same question. That doesn’t tell me anything about you. Answer the question honestly. If you are excited, be excited. If you are overwhelmed, say that. We are ALL busy and we all try to force ourselves into the bucket of “fine” because it’s what has been excepted. But again, what the hell does fine mean? Exactly. So stop saying it.

  • Stop talking shit about people. Seriously. The more you do it the more you hardwire your brain to focus on and see the negative in people and in life — this extends to how you see yourself too.

  • Start telling people the nice things you think — and bonus if you can make it NOT about their appearance. Tell them how they make you feel. Tell them you appreciate them.

  • Listen. No, I don’t mean casually scroll through your Instagram feed while the woman on the bus talks to you. I mean put your phone down, look people in the eyes and actually listen to what they have to say.

  • And finally, find small ways to spread messages of positivity throughout the community with random acts of kindness (see one example I had the privilege of doing below). Buy someone’s coffee, write a nice note on your server’s copy of the receipt, take time to tell a manager about a great employee, help someone carry their bags to their car or get the door for them when you see they are struggling, and rather than scoff in annoyance, tell the parent who is feeling so much shame at the restaurant because they can’t get their child to stop crying that they have nothing to be ashamed of and that it is okay.

Random Acts of Kindness Example


I had the privilege of taking this idea of positive messaging one step further with a group of badass women in Madison, Wisconsin 2 years ago. The day of the women’s march to be exact. We wanted to reach even more people and to allow the power of positive messaging to hit people when they least expected it. And so, we hit the streets.

We took hundreds of post it notes with positive messages written all over them (like those in the photo to the right) and posted them up on show windows, in between sweaters on the shelves at clothing stores, in the bathrooms at public places, inside menus at different restaurants. We seriously posted them everywhere we could think of throughout State Street. And it worked. We saw dozens of people pick up the notes. We found posts on social media with people talking about what it meant to them to see these messages. We didn’t need to be credited for being good humans. We could just be good humans and have an impact. A few hours out of our day to effect hundreds of people. I know, amazing right!

And you can do the same. Maybe you don’t have time to post notes all around your city, but I guarantee you that you can find a way to say something kind to someone around you - anonymously or not! If you work at a coffee shop, write messages on the coffee sleeves or to go cups. Print stickers with positive messages on them and hand them out at a company event. Create a compliments jar at work for people to put in compliments for their coworkers to be shared at monthly meetings. Find a way. Connect with others and spread more positive messaging in the world. It doesn’t mean we are all turning into Polyanna’s, it just means we need to turn off our brains from the notion that hate and defenses are the only way to enact change and find ways to connect as humans. What we have been doing clearly doesn’t work on any scale, so what’s the worst that would happen if you tried it this way?