I came across an article online a few days ago that I thought a friend would appreciate. At the top of the page was a “Share” button. I clicked the button and an email window popped up with the title of the article inserted in the subject line and a link to the article embedded in the body of the email. I entered my friend’s email address, wrote “thought you might enjoy this,” and hit “Send.”
In less than thirty seconds, I had shared a valuable piece of information with a friend. It was too easy.
Now that I think about it, sharing information has always been easy for me. Some might even say that I over-share, as I tend to include a lot of personal information in my books and blogs. When I wrote a local newspaper column a few years ago, I found that a personal approach not only led to the most interesting topics, it also seemed to connect best with the readers. However, my children were not always thrilled about the way I shared our family’s experiences.
My daughter was annoyed because I once wrote that I had more Facebook friends than she had. It was true. But for a teenager, it’s kinda tough when your dad tries to out-friend you. Another time, my son just couldn’t understand why anyone would care that he hopped to his seat during a karate demonstration. Believe me, it was black-belt hilarious. My wife, on the other hand, is just used to it. She knows that I’m just a bit odd and she has perfected her eye-rolling response. Further, because of my personal sharing tendencies, many of you readers know that I have a fear of snakes, that I proudly reflect light off of my balding head, and that I can consume a single Cinnabon in record-breaking time. While these details might disclose more than some people would choose to share, I’ve found that a significant human connection occurs when I share my daily foibles.
Sharing has the potential to help us understand one another better and thus deepen our relationships. The problem is that we’re not all as proficient at sharing as we could be. Some of us share naturally, some of us share too much too quickly, and some of us don’t share at all.
For instance, I love to meet someone at a conference and find out that we have a friend or an experience in common. I’m not as thrilled to sit next to someone on an airplane and instantly learn that they have an advanced case of toe fungus. And, I always feel awkward when I share some personal information with someone who just nods or says, “Oh.” While we communicate to one another using a variety of different styles, perhaps there are a couple of ways we can hit the share button more effectively.
In the book “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell focuses on how little things make a big difference in creating change or causing ideas to spread. He refers to the role that people play in this process and specifically describes “Connectors” and “Mavens”. Connectors are the people who know a lot of people and can connect us to others who may provide some benefit to us. Mavens, on the other hand, are the people who know a lot of valuable things and can connect us to information that we might need.
If you’ve ever needed a recommendation for a plumber or were updating your kitchen, you know how helpful it is when your neighbor tells you how much they love Rusty The Plumber but warns you to stay away from Open-N-Shut Cabinet Company. Similarly, if you’ve ever had cancer or another serious health challenge, you know how helpful it is to talk with someone who has gone through a similar experience and can provide access to the information that may help you cope. Sharing contacts or information is not only helpful, it brings us together as people who are all wanting the same thing—to enjoy life and to manage through it as smoothly as possible.
But information about people or things is not the only items we can share. We can also share our experiences, feelings, and opinions. When I facilitated hospice bereavement groups, one of the most frequent comments I heard from participants was, “I thought I was the only one who felt this way.” After hearing other people share their feelings, the group members felt less isolated, less unusual, and less “crazy.” Just knowing they weren’t losing their mind was a big relief. But this would not have happened if the people weren’t willing to share.
In Deborah Tannen’s landmark book, “You Just Don’t Understand,“ she describes how most women connect to one another by building rapport through the sharing of feelings and experiences. There is a lesson to be learned from Tannen’s work as well as from the feedback in my hospice groups. We feel less alone in the world when we know that others have been on a similar journey. And the way we discover these similarities is by sharing our experiences with one other.
Finally, it is important to realize that the key to effective sharing is to listen to other people and to understand their needs. Paying attention gives us the cues we need to share the most appropriate information, contacts, and experiences. When we connect in this way, we help. And when we help, we are not only building better relationships, we are making the world a better place. It’s all about hitting the share button with the right information for the right person in the right situation.
If you agree, please feel free to share this with someone else!