Why I’m Not As Smart As I Thought – 4 Ways to Connect with Anyone

Caution Stairs, Why I'm Not As Smart As I Thought - 4 Rules To Make More Connection, connection, communication, challenges, listen, heart connection, talk to anyone, conversation skills, You Think You’re So Smart
I used to think, that I was so F-ing smart. I blamed all my social woes on my above average intelligence. People just couldn’t interact on the same level with me. Or that’s what I thought, until I met a Zen Master.

The Zen Master
After moving into Great Vow Zen Monastery, I learned that it’s customary for new residents to have tea with one of the teachers. It’s a special privilege and super intimidating.

I remember entering the tearoom. It wasn’t huge but it was filled with sacred art, wall hangings, as well as, rare and valuable objects. The Zen master made tea slowly and mindfully. I watched trying my best not to be nervous.

When we started talking. He would ask a question and listen carefully to my response. It was scary. Yet, I felt safe enough to reveal myself in many ways I normally wouldn’t.

During the tea, I told him that I struggled connecting with people. I felt like it was hard for me because I was so smart. I felt like people couldn’t meet me on my level.

The Folly of Youth
Before I tell you what he said. I should say that it is dangerous to tell a Zen Master how awesome you are. Being confident is great, but excess pride is folly in life. And especially with someone who can see through your BS.

His reply was kind, but put me in my place. He started talking about the other teacher and Zen Master at the monastery. He told me of her accomplishments and skill as a doctor and teacher.

This explanation conveyed that she was not only smart, but had accomplished a lot with her intelligence. (The latter was something I was very much lacking.)

Then he said, “If you watch her she meets every person where they are at. It doesn’t matter if they are the smartest person or the dimmest. She is able to connect with them. She makes them feel seen and heard. That is the test of real intelligence, more than anything else.”

I had never thought of it that way before. When I had struggled to connect instead of looking at myself, I blamed it on everyone else.

I realized that I was looking ‘out there’ without doing the hard work ‘in here.’

I soon found this lesson applied to all parts of my life. And that message has stayed with me.

Now when I talk to people I don’t think, “Is this person worth my time?” I think, “How can I connect? What do they care about?”

4 Rules To Connect
Along the way, I learned a few things. I’ve found that most people are easy to connect with if you follow 4 simple rules.

1. Ask open-ended questions:
This is the oldest trick in the book. Ask questions that can’t be answered with a yes or a no. Questions like, “What do you do for a living?… How did you get into that business?”
“What do you like to do with your free time? … How did you get started in that hobby?”

People love to talk about themselves. If you can get someone talking about what they care about, they will often come alive.

2. Ask expansive follow up questions:
You may have noticed this above, but you should always have a good follow up question. People are used to being asked what they do. But a great follow up will reveal much more.
Some examples are:
What is the biggest challenge you face in your current career?
What do you know now that you wish you knew 5 years ago?
What are your favorite aspects of what you love to do ?

Each of these questions asks for more than just information. They ask for analysis, reflection, and engagement.

3. Make eye contact, lean in, smile, and nod.
Don’t over do it, but this works wonders. It gives you something to focus on. Plus it will encourage the person to keep going. Nonverbal cues are huge parts of our language so don’t neglect them.

4. Really listen and reflect.
The biggest key to connecting is actually listening. People are used to others being polite. Show you are paying attention by hearing what they are saying and reflecting it back to them.

One trick my teacher always recommended was to imagine a beam of energy running from their heart to yours. This will help you feel connected even if you aren’t interested in the same things they are.

MindFitMove Practice

  • Think of someone who you have had a hard time connecting with.
  • Maybe a coworker or a neighbor.
  • Don’t choose someone you have a lot of conflict with, but someone more neutral to start.
  • Try out the above techniques and see what you find out.
  • Learning to be present with anyone is one of the best gifts we can give the world.

Let’s Discuss
What tricks do you use when you are trying to connect?


How Flipping A Coin Made Me Perfect At Yoga

Guy jumping in yoga poseI’m failing at yoga.
I mean totally blowing it.

My warrior two looks like warrior one. And my warrior one looks like someone broke off the top a bowling trophy.

An Endless Path
The other day a classmate observed that the path of Yoga is endless. We are always working towards greater subtlety and clarity. When he said this, I felt a lump in my throat.

In Yoga school, I am a neophyte extraordinaire. I’ve only practiced with a well-trained teacher for a few months.

Before this, I did mostly guerilla Yoga. It was fun and loose, and my teacher had studied at Youtube academy. I loved Yoga, but I didn’t have a lengthy, formal education.

They’re Pros
Most of my classmates have been practicing for years if not decades. I find their knowledge, skill, and flexibility to be humbling. I often feel like Bambi caught in a forest fire.

Still, Yoga’s not a competition right? Well I’m an American male so everything can be a competition. So there, I was in class thinking about how bad I was at this infinite art.

Then it struck me. There is another side to this coin. The side that sees my yoga as perfect.

Two Sides
There are two sides to every situation: the side that takes an ideal and compares us to it and the side that always sees wholeness. The first side we see all the time. The second side is hardly looked at.

No one can do my Yoga except for me. No one can face my body’s challenges except for me.

My whole life; karma, dharma, and everything else has brought me here.

Every step I make is a step on the path. I may stumble and fall, but I must walk.

There is no me some place else that’s doing it better. There is only the me that practices here and now. There is no moment other than this one and this moment is perfect.

MindFitMove Practice
Reflect on these three questions.
What if everything I do is perfect as it is?
What if everything everyone else does is perfect in this same way?
What if I could see this perfection in every moment?
How would it change my life and how I live?


The 5 Simple Steps to Facing Fear

Litany against fear- From DUNE a book by Frank Herbert
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye and see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.“
Whenever we try to change our lives fear arises. Sometimes it arises because we stumble on the path: “I gained a pound back. What if this is where it all falls apart?” Sometimes it arises because the future is unknown: “If I transform into someone new, who will I be?”  Starting a new exercise practice, changing the way we eat, taking a new fitness class can all be a catalyst for fear, but it doesn’t have to derail us. There are ways to practice with fear and use them to connect with our hearts desire.
Everyone and I mean everyone gets afraid from time to time. Some people are better at hiding it, denying it, or compartmentalizing it, but everyone experiences fear. Resistance to fear is the first barrier to facing our fear.
We want to deny that we are afraid. Most of us are afraid that we will fail, fall flat on our faces, be embarrassed, gain all the weight back, lose the girl/boy, become a source of shame for our family/friends, get terminally ill and die alone and unloved. We try not to think about it because if we do it will come true, or perhaps we’re afraid that we will see it is already true.
Just say to yourself. I’m afraid.
Where do you feel fear? Is it a tight feeling in your chest? Is it butterflies in your stomach? Are you clenching your jaw? Squeezing your fists?
No matter where you feel it, try to go into the sensation. What is the texture of it? What color is it? Is it related to any other part of your body?
Take a piece of paper and describe it in as much detail as possible. If you notice yourself thinking of the content of fear, stop, and go back into your body.
Don’t stay in that fear response forever. It can be very tiring. Instead do something grounding.
  • Things that people find grounding
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise
  •   Taking a walk outside
  •  Eating a piece of fruit
  • Focusing on the bottoms of your feet
Most fear arises from wholesome desires. Our strategies for dealing with fear or the desires that cause fear can be unwholesome, but the fundamental need underneath is usually wholesome and universal.
We want to be loved, appreciated, accepted, and acknowledged. We want to be free, autonomous, joyous, playful, and independent. We want to contribute, nurture, and be part of a community. We want beauty, peace, ease, clarity, order, and predictability.
We might not need all of these at the same time. We might have different ideas about what these would look like, but everything on that list could be needed by anyone.
Try to see what that wholesome desire is for you. Your fear often arises from not having these universal needs addressed.
Often we reject and criticize the part of us that gets afraid.
Imagine if you were a child who was afraid.  Now imagine a parent or teacher criticized your fear, mocked it, and rejected you because of it. Would you feel safer?
Forgive yourself for being afraid. Forgive the part of yourself that is afraid. Visualize yourself as a child. Or if that’s too hard, visualize the part of yourself that is afraid as a child.
Then comfort them. Tell them what you would tell a child that is afraid.  Imagine holding them in your arms patting them on the back. Try putting your arms around yourself and rubbing your own shoulder. Say “it’s ok to be afraid.”
We all experience fear. Fear can be a door into our own hearts and the hearts of others if we are willing to stay with it and walk through it.