Our society is sick with disconnection. Everyone experiences this, no matter their circumstance. However, I believe autistic and developmentally delayed youth and adults may be more acutely aware of the disconnection in our society. Disconnection is experienced profoundly by many marginalized groups, including the autistic and developmentally disabled. Not only are autistic and developmentally disabled people marginalized, they are also quite sensitive. Their heightened sensitivity and troubles with emotional regulation make them a weather barometer for understanding the widespread disconnection of our times.
Heart-Centered ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) brings the light of loving connection to help transform the world and eradicate disconnection. Connecting is what brings light to the darkness and ends the trauma of being alone. We are all in this dance together; no one gets out of life alive. Since we have this short time here on Earth, let’s dance together in as much harmony as possible. Connection is a way to celebrate and honor all our relations in each action.
Connection Is Love
True connection is always loving. Love embraces and makes space for everyone to be themselves as they are in their natural state. Love is unconditional and eternal. Love is open hearted. Love fosters connection. Without connection there is no love; without love there is no connection.
When we work with our clients at Bridging Worlds Behavioral Services, we first seek to understand the things they enjoy and connect with them through that. Once, a new client I was working with didn’t want to talk with me at all. I knew he loved Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). Since I also played D&D as a teenager, this was a natural area to connect over. Through talking about D&D, I found a way to talk with him about his life and the challenges he was facing. Finding the common ground of connection helps to build trust and a solid foundation to work from.
Connection always moves with empathy. When we value connection, empathy becomes our guiding star. Everything we do and all we are is infused with loving connection. We can use empathy with others when we agree with them and when we disagree with them. Empathy can be used at all times and with everyone we relate with. There is no disadvantage to having empathy in every communication.
Whenever someone is giving me difficult feedback, I make extra sure I’m using empathy as I listen to their communication. I’ve often had staff give me feedback about the company as a whole. Recently, a staff member gave me feedback concerning what he didn’t like about the company. At first, my reaction was to defend the company and shut down some of his ideas. Luckily, my leadership experience helped me to slow down and center so that I could simply listen. I knew I needed to hear his experience from his position in order to really understand his experience to the best of my ability. He was having a very strong reaction with good reason in certain places. In other areas, his reactions were guided by misinformation. By listening, I could learn from his perspective and get valid information for how to change the company. Listening well also helped me build a bridge to him so we could return to a strong, solid connection. Listening provided me with the necessary information so that I could gauge when to push back and help him understand versus when to listen and let him express so that I could better understand him.
Connection knows the importance of listening. Connection knows that listening must, by necessity, proceed speaking. When we listen, we set up an environment for connected and attuned speaking. Without listening, there’s nothing to say from a connected place. Without listening, communication breaks down. Listening holds the space for connection.
Whenever we work with our clients, we begin by listening and observing them. I once had a client who didn’t verbally speak much. So I listened and watched and found his movement and sound language. After I listened for about ten minutes, I could begin to dialogue with him in his own movement and sound language. I knew I needed to listen first before I started speaking. This is especially true the more different the other’s language is from your own language.
Connection Speaks the Other’s Language
Connection desires to speak everyone else’s language. The spirit behind connection is the opposite of being self-absorbed. We want to be centered in ourselves when we communicate while we place our focus on the other along with the field of our communication. When we understand that everyone has their own distinctive language and world view, then we can mold our communication to adapt to the other person. We want our words to most effectively communicate with the other. Connection sets everything up for smooth communication. Communication is critical to everything we do as social beings. When our families, our companies, and our communities use connection to facilitate all our communication, then we will have a truly connected world that works for everyone.
Connection Finds the Other’s Metaphor
Samantha Cullity is the CEO of Bridging Worlds and also a gifted singer. Samantha has shared that when she is singing, she feels more at ease than almost any other activity. Knowing this about Samantha, I often help guide her leadership of the company through the metaphor of music. I encourage her to have meetings be as comfortable for her as when she is singing. I’ve told her that once she speaks in our company meetings as naturally as she speaks when she is singing, she will have completely found her voice as a leader.
Everyone has a language and everyone has a central metaphor or two available to use. The person might be interested in trains, physics, chess, video games, art, or any facet of life. Each facet of life is a potential point of connection; it is a doorway into deeper communication with them. Each and every facet of life has central metaphors. When we are on a train we stay on the tracks in order for the train to run well. We could use this metaphor to redirect a conversation as follows: We want to keep our communication on the rails, so let’s come back to the essential thread here. When we play many video games, we increase in levels. Each increasing level brings new challenges. This is true in life as well. As we gain more experience, life keeps bringing us newer and greater challenges. When we face bigger challenges, it’s as if we’ve gone up a level in the video game. It will simply take more practice at this level to get good at it and master it. This process continues on indefinitely, as far as I can tell.
Connection is the Bridge
Through bringing the ethic of connection into everything we do, we become very powerful communicators. I like to say connection is the bridge and communication is the car that travels along the bridge. Without a strong connection, there can be no meaningful communication. We only attempt to communicate when done without connection. When we value connection, we will naturally monitor it so that all our interactions focus on enhancing our connection.
Connection is the Way to Go
The title of this article plays on the biblical quote in which Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the (light)…” I am not using this quote in a religious context, nor am I espousing Christianity. I am using it because it is a poignant and poetic expression that highlights the importance of connection. When connection is valued because of the quality of truth and light that it can bring into our interaction, we have a truly profound setup for a solid trust and a strong relationship.
Join the Revolution
Adam Bulbulia is the author of three books on the topics of unconditional love, nurture being, and authenticity – all of which are available on Amazon. His upcoming book, Parenting from the Heart: A Guide to Create a Family Culture that Works for Everyone, is due out next year.
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