Are you spinning your wheels as you seek to build meaningful connections after your latest global move?
Those of us who are building new lives in a country away from home know what I’m talking about. Getting into a rhythm of relationship building can be frustrating when you don’t know where to start.
Building sustainable relationships across cultures is BOTH an art and a practice
Building relationships is an art and a practice filled with challenging, confusing and surprising moments.
And adding the layers of language and culture to an already complex mix can make relationship building a daunting task for global citizens. Particularly if people in our new home have a pace for establishing relationships that differs from our own.
Thankfully, building community and meaningful relationships is a learnable skill that you can practice as you cultivate these five kinds of connections.
The five degrees of communication
In the classic book Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? John Powell walks us through five degrees of communication that characterize the degrees of connection.
Here’s a quick overview ranging from casual to intimate:
Level 5: Casual
Here the connection is on the surface. The exchanges are general and you can have them with total strangers, at cafès and with shopkeepers. These low-risk connections can be really helpful when you first arrive. You no longer feel like a nameless, faceless person in your new home.
Level 4: Factual
At this level, we share very little about our lives and more about what others have done. The facts reveal what you know, but they do little to reveal who you are. Once you begin adjusting, you can have a lot of connections on this level and still keep people at a healthy distance.
Level 3: Opinions/Ideas/Judgements
This degree of connection can be deceptive for you and others because it appears to be deeper, but your authentic self can stay hidden behind our opinions. You may enjoy many connections on this level, but you and others are primarily sharing what you think, not who you are.
Level 2: Emotional
At this level, you’re sharing your hopes and fears, your disappointments and defeats. Now you’re beginning to reveal who you are in your heart.
Level 1: Transparency/Intimacy
This level is very raw and powerful. It’s the freedom, trust, and safety to be completely honest and vulnerable.
All of this is a good reminder of the types of relationships we need, and how casual relationships are all important in the process of building a new network. They are the starting point for all types relationships.
Friendship opportunities can appear from anywhere
If you’re anxious about how and when these meaningful connections will manifest, relax. Because sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
When I was looking for a new apartment after accepting my “dream job” in Cologne, Germany back in 2000, I did what I would usually do in the States. I told people in my immediate personal and professional circles. My hope was that someone within or on the fringes of my budding new social sphere could point me in the right direction. And it WORKED.
While at a party, I was talking to a friend of a friend about needing to find a new apartment, FAST. I shared that I was new to the city, but not new to Germany and was looking for something preferably in the center.
That evening, this acquaintance put me in touch with someone who had a vacant apartment to rent, located in the city center. Within three days, I arranged an appointment to take a look at the sunny studio. I signed the contract the following day and began mobilizing a team of helping hands to help me move to my new place.
Over the subsequent years, what began as a casual connection progressed to a meaningful one as we grew to become good neighbors.
Take into account cultural differences
Before you can cultivate relationships on these levels, it’s important to take a closer look at how you and your new host culture differ in forming connection. Having this clarity will help you avoid the pitfalls that arise when neither side recognizes there’s a different pace and set of rules.
Take inspired action
How you will take, or make opportunities to make those new connections which could lead to more rewarding relationships?
Creating true connections starts with acquaintances that moves towards trustworthy relationships with deeper levels of transparency. As you build your global lifestyle, if you have just one connection on every level, then you’re on your unique path to thriving as a global citizen.