The Chemistry of Connection


[Listen to me read this reflection here]


An often unspoken belief is that we are logical beings, who sometimes experience emotions.


Our culture is one currently that prioritizes logical, left-brain, analytical, organized, systematic thinking. This is what is promoted, recognized, celebrated and rewarded. When one experiences subtle emotions, it is common to suppress them. When one experiences strong emotions, it is common to label them negatively as meltdowns or outbursts.


I have come to believe that we are not logical beings, but rather emotional beings who use logic to try to explain our emotions.


The choices we make, be it what to eat, what to wear, where to live, where to work, who to connect with, and more, are based primarily on how we feel, or believe we might feel.


And as we are all unique, our emotions are unique and influenced by our genetics, our upbringing, our community, our teachers, our friends and so much more. This makes it very difficult to connect with each other from having only limited information such as where we work, where we live or what our interests are.



During the pandemic, I have found it difficult to build new connections.


While I have found ways to stay connected with the people already in my life, it has been challenging to build new meaningful relationships, be it in business or personally.


To connect with others in physical proximity has become a unique experience for the better part of a year.


Being told how to connect, and not connect, for so long has felt suffocating. I have still followed the guidelines and precautions, out of respect for our collective well being and safety, however I am just now becoming more aware of what’s changed as I start to connect with others in real life.


What I notice most is how much body language has to offer, both about myself and about others. I can’t help but think about how I have been missing all of this valuable information for over one year now, while trying to navigate friendships, relationships and partnerships online.

The subtle information that body language has to offer is what I find most revealing.


When paying attention, I can see the involuntary and unconscious queues that my body is constantly offering up. When I feel nervous, excited, scared, confident or joyful, my body will say it all before I make even a single sound. And the same is true for others around me.


Some connections, like the ones I have with the many people I have hired all over the world in the past year and have never met in person, I need to learn how to substitute the information that I might receive and offer from body language through other means.


Though in business, it is easier to ask direct questions and give clear answers through words, as there is an understanding that it’s not personal, and that the information being exchanged is not meant to be a reflection of the person but rather of the professional relationship. It is expected that expectations be clearly communicated by all people involved.


Other connections, like exploring romantic relationships, are difficult to find substitutes for. In discussing the topic with other single friends, what is clear is that the chemistry of romantic connection almost requires physical proximity.


In any connection, the feeling of touch, whether a handshake or a hug, is yet another way that information is shared. As I have recently restarted hugging people, I realize how much I miss the feeling of sharing and receiving.


The most powerful of course is eye contact. I have forgotten how to make eye contact with another pair of human eyes, for a prolonged period of time, in real life. After countless hours of making eye contact with a video of someone on a screen, and avoiding eye contact unconsciously while physically distancing in public for over a year, the feeling of comfort and discomfort with eye contact is real for me right now.



Before, connection in business and personal relationships heavily favoured physical proximity. Technology to facilitate online connections may have existed before but the adoption has been greatly accelerated over the past year.


Now that in person connection has restarted in many places, I am curious about how the chemistry of connection will change for all of us.


Trust is an important ingredient in any connection, and learning to establish trust without the aid of body language, physical touch or eye contact is an important skill. I have found that vulnerability and authenticity are helpful, and natural, in this regard.


This next little while is an opportunity for greater intentionality for how we connect and who we connect with, and a gentle reminder to not take the emotional experience of connection for granted again.


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