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How to connect instantly with others & build strong relationships – Authentic Relating

art of connection


Imagine finding yourself lost in a scorching desert, the sun beating down on you, as you wander aimlessly for miles. In such a dire situation, the need for water would quickly become apparent, wouldn’t it?

While this scenario may seem straightforward, sometimes we become so detached from our actual needs and so accustomed to their absence that we forget about them. We can become disoriented and confused, unaware that we are still stuck in our personal desert.

Could this be happening in your relationships? Has authentic connection and genuine relating become so scarce that you have forgotten to seek it out? Is it possible that you have settled for mediocre levels of connection, unknowingly entranced by them?

As human beings, we all have fundamental needs like air, food, and water. However, we also have specific social needs. We have a need to belong, to have common ground, to work together in teams for survival, and to feel recognized, respected, and understood. Unfortunately, we are losing the art of authentic relating to each other. Meaningful connections have become harder to find and maintain, despite the world becoming more digitally connected. 

Authentic relating is a practice and philosophy centered around genuine, open, and honest communication in relationships. It involves a deep commitment to being present, vulnerable, and sincere in interactions with oneself and others. The core principle of authentic relating is to cultivate genuine connections by bringing one’s true self into the forefront of interactions, fostering understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.

At its essence, authentic relating encourages you to explore your inner feelings, thoughts, and experiences without filters or masks. It involves the willingness to share your authentic emotions, fears, desires, and vulnerabilities while also actively listening and empathizing with others without judgment. This revelatory practice is not limited to intimate relationships but extends to friendships, family members, work environments, and even entire communities to create far-reaching networks of social support.

Key elements of authentic relating include:


Be fully present in the moment, attentive to your own emotions and those of others. This involves active listening and giving undivided attention to the person speaking during social interactions so you can build better connections.


Embrace vulnerability by sharing personal experiences, feelings, and thoughts honestly. Let go of the fear of judgment and be open to being seen for who you truly are. While this isn’t necessarily an “easy” way to build stronger relationships, it is one of the most powerful ways to create an authentic relationship. 

Empathy and understanding

Cultivate empathy and positive relationships by genuinely seeking to understand others’ perspectives, points of view, emotions, and experiences. Step into another person’s shoes and acknowledge their feelings without imposing judgments or assumptions so you can build stronger connections. 

Authentic expression

Communicate thoughts, emotions, and desires authentically, without pretense, drama, or manipulation. Speak from the heart and express yourself truthfully while considering the impact of words on others.

Conflict resolution

Engage in healthy conflict resolution by approaching disagreements with openness, empathy, and a willingness to understand differing viewpoints. Authentic relating values the resolution of conflicts through constructive dialogue rather than avoidance or aggression. Healthy conflict resolution is one way of building trust. 

Authentic relating can lead to deeper connections, increased trust, and a stronger sense of intimacy in relationships. It allows others to feel understood, accepted, and valued for who they truly are. However, it’s essential to navigate this practice with mindfulness, respect, and a commitment to boundaries, as sharing vulnerable aspects of oneself requires a safe and supportive environment.

Whether you are fortunate enough to be supported by a thriving community that nurtures your growth and success, or if you find yourself isolated and occasionally lonely, wandering through a relational desert, cultivating authentic relationships can significantly enhance the quality of both your work and your life. And the good news is it’s never too late. You can create stronger social connections and bring existing relationships to a deeper level. 

The importance of conversation quality

Whether you are building connections, fostering community, or shaping company culture, one of the best ways to assess the quality of your relationships is by examining the conversations taking place within them. Conversation quality often serves as a proxy for the quality of connection, community, and culture. Whether a conversation is low-quality or high-quality depends on several factors.

Factors that contribute to low-quality conversations include:


In many business cultures, conversations move at such a rapid pace that individuals struggle to participate. Prioritizing content and problem-solving takes precedence over other considerations. A great way to improve your communication skills is to slow down! The little things can make a huge impact when it comes to interpersonal skills. 

Lack of presence

Conversations often revolve around the past or the future, rarely focusing on the present moment. One of the most significant threats to interpersonal relationships is a lack of presence. Unknowns, assumptions, and projections infiltrate these discussions, perpetuating drama and hindering the quality of conversation.  

Excessive talking

Have you ever listened to someone speak for four minutes, repeating themselves three times? As they drone on, you find your mind drifting away, creating mental to-do lists or formulating your response. This kind of one-sided conversation diminishes its impact and social effectiveness. Ensure you offer space for responses and inspire the full attention of others. Good communicators are always good listeners. 

Methods to Enhance Effective Communication and Authentic Relating

One powerful way to incorporate authentic relating skills into the workplace is through the use of sentence stems. Sentence stems offer a simple yet effective approach that can take as little as a minute to implement, or as long as you desire! They can be utilized in any time frame, connecting your team to themselves, the present moment, and each other. Regardless of your role, relationships, or community, sentence stems can be employed successfully.

Here are a few examples of how sentence stems can be applied:

Pulse checks

A pulse check involves starting a sentence stem in response to an idea, concept, result, thought, or projection. During a meeting or check-in, encourage your team to share their thoughts in response to a specific item.

For instance:

“When I look at what’s on the screen, I feel _______.” 

“When I read that number, I feel ________.”

Team members can respond briefly or in great detail. The objective is to engage your team and elicit authentic and honest responses, devoid of shame, blame, or judgment.

Checking for impact

As a leader, when you make an announcement or introduce new information that brings about change, it’s important not to simply move on without acknowledging the impact on your team. Instead, take a moment to check for impact within the group.

After making your announcement, invite those present to share how the news has affected them. You can conduct multiple rounds of sharing, such as reflecting on what was heard without commentary, followed by one-on-one discussions where individuals have the opportunity to express their immediate thoughts. By reconvening the team and exploring the impact of your announcement, you gain valuable insights into their perspectives.

Active listening

Actively listening is an essential skill that goes beyond simply hearing words; it involves fully engaging with and attempting to comprehend the speaker’s message and meaning. To actively listen, you must try to eliminate distractions and give your undivided attention to the speaker, displaying genuine interest through eye contact and attentive body language. Avoid interruptions or prematurely forming conclusions while allowing the speaker to express their thoughts completely. Reflecting and paraphrasing what you’ve heard in your own words confirms your understanding and helps clarify any misunderstandings.

Encourage further discussion by asking open-ended questions and showing empathy towards the speaker’s emotions and perspective without judgment. Patience is key in active listening. The silence may feel uncomfortable at first, but allow pauses for reflection and thoughtful responses. Another important aspect of active listening is to avoid planning your response while the speaker is still talking. Don’t make assumptions and ask for clarification if you need to so you don’t make a knee-jerk response. Remaining present and mindful throughout the conversation, providing feedback, summarizing key points, and expressing thoughts afterward demonstrate active listening skills, fostering stronger relationships and effective communication in both personal and professional interactions.

Understanding the four types of conversations

In the framework of authentic relating, there are four distinct types of conversations:

1. Informational conversations

These are the most common conversations, where individuals share their opinions or relay information on a particular topic.

2. Task-related conversations

Task-oriented conversations focus on actions and responsibilities. They involve statements like, “I need to do this” or “You need to do this.”

3. Personal conversations

Personal conversations revolve around individual experiences and self-expression.

4. Relational conversations

Relational conversations center on the present moment. They involve being aware of oneself, the other person, and the dynamic between them. Unlike other types of conversations, relational conversations prioritize what is happening right now, internally and externally. Healthy connections and better relationships are built through this type of conversation. 

Have you ever felt drained after a conversation where someone seemed to be talking at you instead of with you? In a relational conversation, you feel alive. You are aware of yourself and your surroundings, as well as being connected to the other person’s inner world. This capacity to be fully present with oneself and another person simultaneously is a skill that can be developed and honed. 

Authentic relating skills and processes revolve around this connection. By incorporating them into team dynamics and company culture, you foster an awareness that promotes genuine relating and strong connections.

When someone in our culture offers the casual greeting, “Hey, how are you?” you are presented with an opportunity. You can choose to pursue authentic relating, or stick to the status quo and potentially sacrifice deeper connections and more meaningful relationships. You can choose to authentically relate and share one genuine thing that is happening at the moment and engage in a richer, more three-dimensional conversation by asking the other person, with genuine curiosity, how they are doing. In that brief interaction, what some would consider “small talk”, you can create the potential for a deeper, more human connection.

The first step to escaping the relational desert with your team is to lead by example and embody these principles. Strong relationships are built through intentional conversation, emotional connection, active listening, and commitment. 

Authentic relating guides us back to the importance of genuine human connection in the digital age that is full of Zoom meetings and catching up with an old friend by checking their social media profiles. Just like seeking water in a scorching desert, so many of us wander relational deserts, unaware of our own thirst for meaningful connections.

The principles of authentic relating – encompassing presence, vulnerability, empathy, authentic expression, and conflict resolution – underscore the importance of genuine, open-hearted communication. It encourages us to shed our masks, share our vulnerabilities, and listen without judgment, fostering deeper bonds in our personal and professional relationships. 

Understanding the significance of conversation quality in gauging the depth of our connections is pivotal. Lower-quality conversations are one of the most significant threats to relationship building and are marked by speed, a lack of presence, and excessive talking, which hinder the authenticity and depth of our interactions. By embracing authentic relating practices, you can transform these conversations into meaningful dialogues that nurture understanding, empathy, and connection.

Integrating tools like sentence stems to encourage pulse checks, checking for impact, and active listening in team settings can revolutionize communication dynamics. Recognizing the four types of conversations – informational, task-related, personal, and relational – empowers us to prioritize the present moment and foster a deeper level of connection.

The journey towards authentic relating is not just an individual endeavor but an invitation for collective transformation. By embracing these principles in your interactions, whether through a simple greeting or in complex team dynamics, you can pave the way for richer, more authentic personal connections.

Ultimately, authentic relating isn’t just a concept; it’s a conscious choice, a commitment to nurture genuine connections and create a positive effect in a world where surface-level interactions often prevail. By leading with authenticity, empathy, and active engagement, you can navigate relational deserts at home and in the workplace, transforming them into fertile grounds where meaningful relationships can flourish, and in turn, create a more interconnected and empathetic society.

Photography by Kelley Raye //

Dr. Caneel Joyce is a CEO Coach and social scientist who helps people break out of the invisible traps and make whole-life changes easily and naturally.

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