Principle Number One: Meetings
Much of the work of getting closer to people is arranging times when you can talk. The first, most important key is not tweaking your thought patterns or psychological habits. It is improving logistics — setting a time and a place where you can be with each other in an environment where you can talk. Making a time when you can have someone over to your house, for example. Using email to figure out a good time to call and talk on the phone, for another example. Set up events.
This seems elementary, but it is important. Sometimes the most elementary principle is the most important.
My brother and I email each other fairly often. I didn't talk to him much on the phone and rarely visited him (he lives a thousand miles away and I haven't been committed to closeness). Once, in an email, I asked him about photography since I take such lousy pictures and he always manages to get good ones. He said he had a lot to say about that, if I really wanted to know. What a great opportunity. This was shortly after my revelation. I was in the process of trying to cultivate closeness with him.
"I do want to know," I told him, "Let's do it on the phone. When would be a good time to call?"
I'm trying to set up an event, you see? That's the first step in getting closer to people: arranging a time when you can talk. I think talking on the phone is better than email. And in person is even better. Why? Because the communication is more complete. When you add tone of voice and body language and facial expression to your words, there is much more communication happening. So it seems to me closeness might develop more easily and more completely in person. But on the other hand, you're more likely to have the person's full attention on the phone. And it's a lot more intimate to talk one-on-one than four people talking together, for example, or during a family get-together. The conversation one-on-one can go deeper. At least that's my experience.
Setting is important too. If you try to get together in a noisy bar, you won't connect as well as you would in a quieter place with fewer distractions and interruptions. Set up events conducive to communication. If you have control of background music, for example, use the kind without words. It's less distracting. It makes conversation easier.
Mind-set is important too. When you're on your way to your meeting, or about to dial the phone, think about your relationship with the person. Get yourself in the right frame of mind for communicating. Remind yourself of the principles in this book. Refresh your memory of why you want to cultivate closeness with this person.
Set and setting will determine the quality of the experience.
RENEWING A CONNECTION
If you've decided to increase closeness with someone you've hardly talked to for years, ease into it at first. Start slowly. A brief email — a little something about what's going on with you, with some expression of feeling, and a few simple questions about what's going on with her. Let a little time go by. Then write a longer email message with a little more information, a little less time in between. Maybe after awhile, a brief phone call. And then later, a longer call. Then a visit. Etc. Let her get used to the new you. Let her speak up a bit to find you're a better listener than you used to be. She will begin to feel closer to you and open up more with you. Make it safe. Ease into closeness. Cultivate it; don't force it. Deliberately take your time and gradually increase the closeness.
If she seems hesitant or wary or suspicious of your motives, don't take it personally. You don't know what kind of explanation she made for why you haven't been communicating. Let your new attitude demonstrate to her your intention is closeness. Let her gradually warm up to you. As your beam your warmth to her, she will take down her defenses and open up. This can't be accomplished with force or pushing or hurrying. Cultivation requires patience.
Spend some time beforehand thinking about what you'd like to share and what you want to know. Think about how important closeness is. Remind yourself to focus on feelings (as you'll learn in the next few chapters) and keep closeness as a purpose clear in mind. This is part of arranging a time to talk. You've got the time and the place, so now get your mind and heart aligned with your purpose.
Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Direct Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.