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Closer: Find happiness in your life and relationships with the 7 principles of Connectedness

Closer: Find happiness in your life and relationships with the 7 principles of Connectedness

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Closer: Find happiness in your life and relationships with the 7 principles of Connectedness

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Mar 1, 2018


It's in our nature to relate and connect with others.

But in a world dominated by electronic communications, online identities and constant busyness, we are losing touch, and our relationships are lacking real meaning. Many of the problems we face today are directly related to our inability to connect emotionally with others. Rates of depression and anxiety, isolation and loneliness, relationship conflict and neighbourhood complaints are at an all-time high.

The seven principles of connectedness provide a practical framework for establishing a better relationship with yourself and strong, fulfilling relationships with others, by helping you uncover the emotional needs that underlie all interactions. The framework is easy to learn and can be implemented immediately for positive results. It's a highly effective way of significantly improving personal and professional relationships.

Written in a warm and empathetic style and tone, Closer helps reinforce the power of strong connections and their importance in all facets of life.

Mar 1, 2018

Sobre el autor

Peter Charleston has been a psychologist for more than 20 years, trained in psychotherapy, couples therapy, organisational psychology and coaching psychology. He has postgraduate qualifications in psychology and business and is regularly invited to speak to organisations on engagement, emotional intelligence, mental fitness, leadership and teamwork. Peter’s expertise includes dealing with relationships, work/life issues, stress, anxiety, depression, perfectionism, conflict and addictions, and he is known for his ability to simplify complex theories and research for the practical benefit of his clients.

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Closer - Peter Charleston



The most difficult thing in psychology is to provide a new perspective on something everyone experiences every day, that changes the way we behave from that single moment of new awareness.

There is a big problem with modern society. Today we expect more and more from our work and personal relationships than in any previous generation. We demand respect, engagement, love, happiness and satisfaction, yet we struggle to create what we want. Many of us remain unsatisfied by relationships. We yearn for more intimacy in our personal relationships, friendships and family, and for greater engagement at work with colleagues, employers and employees.

One main reason why so many people are unsatisfied is that we seem to lack the people skills vital for creating better relationships. We need skills that help us connect emotionally with those around us to form meaningful relationships. Without these skills we end up with relationships that are transactional – one task or service is exchanged for another. We are left wanting something deeper. Today much of our communication with others seems to happen at a physical and emotional distance – via email, phone calls, video calls, texting, messaging and social media. More and more we rely on technology to communicate, offering less of a quality connection than opening up to each other face-to-face in a meaningful way.

Not many of us understand how to make the most of our connections. We are not good at identifying our emotional needs, let alone fulfilling those needs. These are vital skills for happiness and success. Consumer culture creates material wants that distract us from our emotional needs and the result is that mediocre relationships become the ‘norm’, where you put up with a lot less than what you are both capable of creating. This just creates (and sometimes perpetuates) unhappiness, resentment, misery and suffering.

This problem exists partly because our society tends to value logic, science, rationality and task completion over emotion, passion, empathy and relationship skills. This preference for logic with its emphasis on efficiency and effectiveness influences everything we do, including how well we communicate, what we value, how we behave and how we make decisions. A lot of us seem to be out of touch with our own emotions and disconnected from others’ emotions, as we spend most of our time getting things done and talking about people, places and things, rather than really connecting on a deeper level with those around us.

We all suffer in some way from this lack of connection. It affects how we treat each other. For example, when driving, you are more likely to focus on your own driving and where you are headed than consider who else is on the road, what they are experiencing in life and why they might be driving the way they do. You start to consider other people’s suffering when you show more empathy and consideration rather than judge­ment. There is a similar attitude vying for seats on public transport, sharing storage in the overhead lockers in airplanes and competing for tickets at a popular show. When emotions are undervalued, and sharing emotions is still seen as a sign of weakness in many areas of society, then we have high rates of public aggression, conflict, selfishness, neighbour complaints, anxiety, depression, domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction, gambling problems and relationship breakdown.

At work, how you engage with people significantly impacts on your career. This includes the way you communicate with customers, clients and colleagues, the partnerships you create and the networks you make. Those who search for meaningful and authentic connections have a competitive advantage too few understand. When the norm is a workplace culture that values logic over emotion, the focus is on just getting tasks done rather than creating healthy working relationships. In this task-based culture you are more likely to think of your own emotional and practical needs first rather than consider your colleagues, which limits the potential performance of the whole team. The better way is to blend a focus on task with a focus on relationships, giving one priority over the other depending on what each situation requires. You adapt your focus by tuning into the emotional needs of the people around you. This type of emotional intelligence, using your understanding of emotional needs, is a valuable skill set to have in the workplace.

Everyone needs emotional connections with others. A strong emotional connection can have a tremendously positive effect on you. When relationships are strong their power reverberates widely. The more emotionally connected you become with people, the more positive energy you create at work at home, which enhances your personal relationships, and as a result your life becomes more satisfying.

Do you believe in love? For most people, true and lasting love is the most desirable state in a personal relationship. Why then does it seem to be out of reach to so many people? First, I think it takes a lot of effort. A significant part of this effort is your own personal development, which I will address later in the book. Some people just give up striving for such an ideal connection because they believe it is simply too hard. They still marry and have children, they ‘make it work’, but something remains missing. Second, it’s easy to be hurt, and to hold onto this hurt for a long time. You are probably familiar with the saying ‘It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’, but it seems that too many people get hurt and then become less trusting; they tend to become more cautious and resentful, and end up not giving as much emotionally to others. If you stop believing in love it makes your situation worse because you end up consistently stopping yourself from getting what you need by distancing yourself emotionally from others. The third reason why love is difficult is that its main ingredients cannot be seen or quantified. What matters is invisible to the eye (Exupéray, 1991), so love is hard to understand intellectually. It has to be felt emotionally, which is difficult considering our world tends to promote logic and reasoning over emotion.

These problems in relationships are preventable and fixable. The goal of this book is to give you a simple framework for strengthening the connections in your life and for understanding what really matters. Most of us have the capacity to improve ourselves by learning emotional, mental and interpersonal skills, and you have the potential to learn more from your relationships than from anything else in your life. The psychological growth of individuals and relationships contributes to the wellbeing of our communities and directly contributes to the evolution of humanity. It’s that important.

The more aware you are of your own and others’ emotional needs (that lie just underneath the surface of all our lives), the more likely you can create the types of connections you truly desire. When you understand your own and other people’s emotional needs better, your motivation and ability to improve your professional and personal relationships increases.

So why write this book? I wrote this book over several years, mainly between the hours of 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., where every morning I would add a little bit more to the growing number of words on my computer. This book has been written from the time my daughter Pia was born until her fifth year. I would write until Pia was awake and when she woke up I would put into practice the emotional connection techniques I was writing about. Every day we tell each other that we love each other and the joy and genuineness this brings will never go away. My interactions with Pia reminded me of what really matters and contributed to the model I introduce in this book. I want to leave her with a guide to help her connect well with others.

Another inspiration is all the people I come across in my job as a psychologist, who struggle in their relationships at home and at work. I have been a full-time practitioner of psychology and psychotherapy for 25 years. That amounts to around 30,000 hours of therapy and coaching with individuals, couples and teams. The principles in this book come from observing and studying the similarities my clients have in common in their relationships.

The principles I highlight in this book can be applied to any context in your life, no matter what culture you live in, to create better relationships, peace and happiness. This book explores the emotional skills that create strong connections. First, I help you identify your emotional needs and describe what happens when your needs are not fulfilled in relationships and how that affects your life. Next, I describe how you sabotage your relationships because of unmet emotional needs. Understanding the 7 principles of emotional connectedness will help you see your own and others’ connection strengths and weaknesses more clearly and this in turn will help you to more consciously choose who to connect with and who not to. You will learn to make the most of those connections that show the most potential. This helps you understand relationships better and helps identify the emotional skills you need to develop to create strong connections.

This book shows you how to communicate your emotional needs clearly, rather than in indirect, manipulative and undermining ways that can easily prevent the expression of love, lead to misinterpretations and conflict, and sometimes the breakdown of relationships.

Whenever I use the term ‘relationship’ in this book, I use it in the broadest sense possible – I mean any relationship between two or more people, and also the one you have with yourself. You have a relationship with all the people in your life, whether it’s close or distant, personal or professional.

If people write books to find out more about the subject they are writing about, then I am guilty of doing so here. There have been plenty of times in my life when I have messed up opportunities to connect. If, like me, you have learnt relationship skills through trial and error, you know it’s better to get it right than continue getting hurt and inflicting pain. A lot of these relationship errors, and the distress and grief that accompany them, can be prevented with the right guidance. I hope this book is the guide you have been looking for.

I have had a strong interest in the psychology of relationships for many years now. Much of what I have read on attachment, love, engagement and workplace culture is written in a philosophical, rather than practical, way. It doesn’t interest me to read pages of analysis and research about what love is, or complex concepts that seek to understand relationship problems, rather than offer solutions. Writers also seem to steer away from the ‘how to’ when it comes to describing emotional connection, as if it’s a taboo subject that no one is willing to tackle, maybe because we want to keep the mystery about love alive. But I don’t find this helpful to anyone who wants to be better at relationships. I wrote this book to address these frustrations.

I have tried to be as practical and helpful in this book as possible, minimising the psychobabble and corporate language that can confuse and confound the reader. In order to be practical, I have not quoted many scientific studies, although much of what I have written is based on valid research. You can use the references section (page 249) to gather more information about the science behind the theory. I have attempted to be as clear and simple as possible in describing what I believe makes a genuine emotional connection. If you have any further questions, please get in touch through my website (www.petercharleston.com). I will be happy to hear from you and receive your feedback.

At the end of each chapter are ‘action items’ that serve as guides for your own inner work. These are best handled by creating a reflective journal. If you don’t have one, start by using the questions and ideas from the action items. Once you have finished reading this book I hope you will be able to identify when you and others sabotage connections and will also have developed the skills in knowing what to do to correct the sabotage. I hope you will gain a greater understanding of how to connect emotionally to yourself and others, and how important this is to happiness.

Hopefully you will come back to this book from time to time, for reminders, hints and tips, especially when your relationships need maintenance. You set the pace for your own journey, so read this book at a pace that maximises your learning. This book will not solve all your problems, it is not intended to give you answers for every relationship dilemma. It is a roadmap – a guide to give you the skills and confidence to handle your own issues effectively. Hopefully some of the answers for your life may come to you as you explore the ideas and issues in the following pages.

Chapter 1

Introducing the 7 Principles of Connectedness

If you are too smart you will think you know the answers. It’s more important to ask the right questions and let experience show you the answer. To be open and vulnerable takes courage.

One of the most important questions you can ask yourself is ‘How can I love better?’ There is a mobile hanging from the top of a window frame in my kitchen at home, with beads at different points on the string and a big crystal hanging on the bottom. It’s been hanging there for years and I love the way it glows and twinkles in the sun. Every time I need a reminder of what really matters (emotionally connecting) I go to this hanging mobile, look at it and fondly remember who gave it to me. It was 1990, I was 20, and on a holiday with my mother and sister at a yoga and vegetarian retreat on an organic farm and commune in the countryside. It was Easter, and there were kids everywhere.

We arrived at the retreat and mingled around the large building, which served as kitchen, library and communal area, waiting to be shown our living quarters. Straight away, I started playing with the kids who came in and out of the building, and before I knew it, that afternoon, I was leading an adventure into the woods with a trail of about 20 kids, ranging in age from four to 14. From then on, for the whole long weekend, whenever I was in their sight, these kids would flock to me for some attention. I created games for them and acted as a human swing, trampoline, goalposts and donkey all in one. The parents loved it – I was a free nanny for the whole weekend. The kids loved it too, of course – lots of play, fun and adventure. I was nicknamed the ‘Pied Piper’ and given the crystal mobile as a thank you present from the parents and their kids. Whenever I think back on this time I realise that the ability to connect with these kids was a skill that came easily to me, because that’s what I value and practise. What I also realised is that these people viewed me as an exception to the norm: they didn’t see young adults, young men in particular, as warm and compassionate. This didn’t sit well with me, and hasn’t ever since. Loving is a skill that can be learnt by anyone, and a skill that we need more of in the world.

I use these connecting skills as a counselling and coaching psychologist. A large part of my job is helping people connect better with themselves and others. I enjoy bringing people closer together in their work and home life, helping them to use emotions better. This helps them to understand each other more and to cooperate as a strong team to reach their goals and be happy in each other’s company. Whether it’s a personal or career-related session, I use the same principles of emotional connectedness featured in this book.

There is no proper substitute for genuine emotional connection and I don’t think there ever will be. I hope this book reminds you of what really matters, and of the need for us all to improve our relationship skills.

Communicating Emotional Needs

Whether you are at work or home, when you only use your task-focused analytical mind to communicate, not all is being said or acknowledged. For one thing, your emotions are not being directly expressed. Yet emotions are vital for reading people, for knowing yourself, for making decisions and for developing relationships. Even when you are not expressing emotion, it is there in the communication underneath the words. Even when you are saying nothing, emotion is there.

We all have a number of attachments in our lives. They can be close or distant, strong or weak, intimate or more transactional. The degree of closeness or intimacy of a relationship depends largely on the emotional connection two people have with each other. You can have a lot of emotional drama in your life, yet not open up about how you feel, and thus lack emotional connection with anyone. Furthermore, it is relatively easy for people to relate intellectually with each other and enjoy doing things together. But it takes different skills to emotionally connect with each other. Emotionally connecting with someone is an inherently anxious process because it asks you to be open, vulnerable, as well as skilled at communicating emotions effectively.

Strong emotional connections occur when two people honestly open up about their feelings, needs, ideas and values, when they give from the heart with good intention, and when both are willing to improve and maintain the connection that is created. This openness and agreeableness are two of the ‘big five’ personality traits (Costa & McCrae, 1995) that have been shown to significantly influence happiness and success. You already have some idea of how skilled you are at being emotionally open, but you probably don’t have clarity about how to improve your relationship skills. That’s what this book is all about.

Most people don’t know how badly they communicate their emotional needs. We expect others to know what we need without us expressing our needs clearly. How would you rate your ability to connect emotionally with people? It’s difficult to rate yourself because it depends on whom you compare yourself with and how you define ‘emotional connection’. Most of us have room for improvement. The more emotionally connected you become with people, the more special you are to each other, the more resilient the relationship becomes, and the better energy you create together and share. This kind of relationship can achieve great things because of the teamwork generated by the strong connection.

Emotion at Work

Having your emotional needs fulfilled is also important to work performance. The more your emotional needs are met outside work, the better you are at tackling workplace politics. You will handle criticisms and judgements better because you won’t rely on validation from people at work in order to feel okay. You will be less prone to manipulation and intimidation. On the other hand, when you are emotionally needy then others’ political games will hurt more because you take it personally – for example by interpreting a criticism or lack of affirmation as disappointment and disapproval. Do you ever feel like a fake or an imposter at work? If you do, this reflects your emotional needs not being satisfied. A lot of people feel this way some of the time. Feeling like a fake occurs when you do not believe enough in your ability to do the job. This ‘I am not good enough’ state is often inaccurate and simply based on not being able to manage high anxiety. There may be no evidence that you are not good enough, but it is a convenient conclusion for your mind. When you are highly anxious you look for answers and you look to control the situation so it’s understandable that ‘I am a fake’ is your answer to why you are not coping. However, you then also worry that at some point you will be found out as a fake by others. You become mentally stuck with this conclusion, which usually takes someone else (such

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