Who have you made a connection with today?

Who have you made a connection with today?

In January, the humanworks team researched several affective (personality) assessments. While preparing to leave for an extended vacation to Vietnam and Cambodia, my various results were fresh on my mind. Myers Briggs said that I’m an ENFP – Extraversion (E), Intuition (N), Feeling (F), Perception (P). What resonated with me prior to my travels was that my result said I “love variety – of ideas, people, environments” and “enjoy meeting people from different cultures.” YES! Predictive Indicator said I’m a Promoter and “love being with, talking to, and getting to know others.” Of my top 5 themes in Clifton StrengthsFinder, WOO (winning others over) struck a chord with me. It said that people with WOO find strangers energizing and want to learn their names, ask them questions, and find an area of common interest to strike up a conversation and build rapport. As someone who has made talent discovery and professional networking a career, I know how complementary those affective attributes are for my job. It was interesting to see how relevant the results are for how I travel.

After months of planning to explore a part of the world we’d never been to, my husband and I were excited about the beautiful sites, unique history, delicious cuisine and amazing culture we’d be immersed in. Travel is my passion and I’ve been fortunate to travel often. My favorite part of traveling is connecting with the people who live in the destination. It’s fun to find out their recommendations for what a visitor should do and gain their firsthand opinion of what they love most about where they live.

I enjoy practicing my “mas o menos” level of Spanish fluency while shopping on Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen, Mexico and chatting with Uber drivers anywhere from Scottsdale, AZ to Canterbury, England to get the lay of the land from their perspectives. I quickly realized that I would not be able to learn the Vietnamese or Cambodia’s Khmer languages no matter how many times I typed the phrases – hello, how are you and thank you – into Google Translate and attempted to memorize them.

I wondered how I’d make connections with people while we were there… To top it off, our 2-week journey was at the point when coronavirus cases were slowly creeping outside of mainland China to destinations where we were traveling. When we arrived at our layover in Singapore almost everyone was wearing masks and the same held true when we landed in the airport of our first destination, Hanoi, Vietnam. What I found at our various airport stops throughout the trip is that even while I was wearing a mask and communicating or having an exchange with someone where we didn’t speak the same language, we could still make a connection. Thank you, Tyra Banks, for teaching the world to smize (smile with your eyes for anyone not familiar with the America’s Next Top Model series).

We had extremely friendly guides in each of the four cities in Vietnam and in Siem Reap, Cambodia. We learned from them how to say thank you in their respective language. Although most of the people we encountered spoke English almost fluently, it was fun to practice saying cảm ơn (sounds like “gauhm uhhn”) in Vietnam and arkoun tum tum accompanied with a slight bow in Cambodia. I’ve found a gracious thank you attempted in the language of the country you’re visiting goes a long way wherever you are in the world. It supports in building that extra connection in your communication exchange. I had so many friendly conversations and interactions throughout our journey. My affective happy meter was full!

One of my favorite shopping experiences was in Siem Reap at their Night Market. There was a store with beautiful hand-painted elephant figurines and elephant notebooks assembled artfully from 45 pieces of tissue paper. I met the artist and shopkeeper named Chenda while she was painting an elephant and she started showing me which handicrafts she had made. She handed me a brochure and I came to find that everything in the store was made by a group of craftsmen who, like herself, were hearing and speech impaired. Their lovely mission is to give “joy, hope, and decent jobs to underprivileged Cambodian people.” While Chendra and I spoke different languages, we had a meaningful exchange with hand gestures, a calculator, lots of smiles and head nods.

As I reflect on the wonderful 2-week adventure that I was blessed to take, I think most about all of the people I met. It leads me to ponder, what connections do we make each day? Are we giving any meaning or thought to those connections or are they simply transactional encounters? How often do we fly through our daily lives without noticing the person who is preparing our latte or helping us with an account question over the phone or truly being present for our colleagues and loved ones? What if we truly paid attention to those we encounter regardless of our affective preferences and realized what could come out of the connection? Perhaps it’s your next business opportunity or a new relationship. Or maybe it’s simply making someone’s day by taking the time to notice them and connect. Notice how much that connection enhances your own day.