Bing tracking

One to Ones: Overcoming Barriers

Written by Geoffrey Gill

We wall ourselves to protect ourselves. Let’s take a look at a few things that have held me mentally and physically back from really connecting to others and being in community.

These Barriers or walls are things that keep me(us) from experiencing another person’s heart, soul, mind, and strength.

*The Heart (passions, hurts, motivations, dreams), 

*Soul ( personality, how they think, communicate, problem solve), 

*Mind (what they believe, worldview, values, sense of self, sense of humor, what they find sacred

*Strength (how they help, skills they bring to the table, the unique beauty they add to the world)

Chain link fence with cars on the highway in the backgroundKey Barriers to One to Ones:

When we do scary and uncomfortable things, our bodies and emotions may react in order to protect ourselves from what our bodies perceive as danger. 

We do this in many ways, here are some examples: 

  • Allowing nervousness or fear of rejection to prevent you from engaging with others can limit opportunities to form meaningful relationships. 
  • Taking the power of someone’s opinion out of the equation
  • Closed-Off Attitude: Not showing genuine interest or curiosity about others can create a barrier to forming deep connections.
  • Poor Nonverbal Engagement: Lack of eye contact and closed body language can signal disinterest, hindering the development of trust and rapport. (80%+ communication)
  • Negative Mindset: Approaching interactions with negativity or skepticism can make conversations strained and uninviting. **Being honest about something that was wrong- and acknowledging it. 
  • Anxiety and self protective responses that protect us from others (If I keep it cool then people won’t know what I really have going on and they cant use it against me)
  • Superficial Sympathy: Focusing only on surface-level sympathy instead of striving for deeper empathy and understanding can lead to shallow connections.
  • Ignoring Personal Boundaries: Pushing too hard for personal information or not respecting someone’s comfort zone can damage trust and discourage further interaction.
  • Overlooking Small Achievements: Not recognizing the importance of small steps in relationship building can lead to missed opportunities for growth and connection.
  • Unprepared Conversations: Entering into interactions without any thought or preparation can result in unproductive and awkward exchanges.
  • Self-Centered Approach: Focusing solely on what you can get out of a relationship, instead of also considering what you can contribute, can create imbalance and hinder genuine connection.
  • Lack of Presence: Being distracted or not fully engaged in conversations can make others feel undervalued and disrespected.

In essence, these boundaries stem from a lack of openness, engagement, and respect in interactions. Recognizing and working to overcome these barriers can enhance the ability to build authentic and meaningful relationships.

orange, pink and blue post it notes stacked on top with "tips and tricks" on top with a drawing of a lightbulbOvercoming Barriers Tips and Tricks:

When we bypass our fear and invest in others this is what brave, productive, healthy space looks like. A holistic approach, addressing both the emotional and practical aspects of building one-on-one relationships are found below. When you decide this is about the other person and you dive into the mystery and exploration this what you do: 

  • Encourage Curiosity: Emphasize the value of being curious about the other person. Curiosity can lead to more engaging and dynamic conversations. It shows that you’re genuinely interested in learning about them, which can create a stronger connection.
  • Practice Nonverbal Communication: Nonverbal cues like eye contact, nodding, and open body language can significantly enhance communication. These cues can show that you’re engaged and interested in the conversation, even without many words.
  • Set a Positive Tone: Starting conversations with a positive attitude and an open mind can set a welcoming and comfortable tone for the interaction. Positivity tends to be contagious and can make the experience more enjoyable for both parties.
  • Reframe Anxiety as Excitement: Sometimes, nervousness in meeting new people can be reframed as excitement. This slight shift in perspective can change how you approach the conversation, making it more about the opportunity rather than the fear.
  • Emphasize Empathy Over Sympathy: While sympathy is feeling for someone, empathy is feeling with them. Encourage your group to strive for empathy, which fosters deeper understanding and connection.
  • Acknowledge and Respect Boundaries: It’s important to recognize and respect personal boundaries in conversations. Not everyone may be comfortable sharing personal details immediately, and that’s okay.
  • Celebrate Small Victories: Acknowledge and celebrate even the small successes in building relationships, like having a pleasant conversation or finding a shared interest. This can boost confidence and motivation.
  • Prepare Some Go-To Conversation Starters: Having a few general topics or questions in mind can help ease into conversations more smoothly, especially when you’re unsure of how to start.
  • Remember It’s a Two-Way Street: Relationships are about giving and receiving. Encourage your group to not only share about themselves but also to be open to what others have to offer.
  • Mindfulness and Presence: Being fully present in the conversation, without distractions, can make the interaction more meaningful and respectful.

Practices to Add Daily

Integrating these practices into daily life requires consistent effort, patience, and sometimes, a shift in mindset. 

Here are some ways to help embody these concepts more naturally over time:

  • Regular Practice: practice these skills regularly. Like any other skill, building relationships improves with practice. Even small, daily interactions can be opportunities to hone these skills.
  • Reflection and Journaling: Keep a journal of your experiences in building relationships. Reflecting on what worked, what didn’t, and how they felt during interactions can provide valuable insights and personal growth.
  • Role-Playing and Scenarios: You could use role-playing exercises to practice different scenarios. This can help members feel more prepared and confident in real-life situations.
  • Set Personal Goals: Set realistic, personal goals related to building relationships. These could be as simple as initiating a conversation with a stranger or asking more open-ended questions in their interactions. Create a white board chart to capture your personal goals. 
  • Create a Supportive Environment: Foster a group culture where members feel safe to share their experiences and challenges. Support from the group can be a powerful motivator and source of encouragement.
  • Mindfulness Practices: Introduce mindfulness exercises that focus on being present and aware during interactions. This can help in managing anxiety and being more engaged in conversations.
  • Celebrate Progress: Recognize and celebrate the progress each member makes, no matter how small. This can boost morale and encourage continued effort.
  • Buddy System: Pair up members so they can practice these skills together and provide feedback to each other. This can also help in building accountability.
  • Adapt and Personalize: Remind everyone that it’s okay to adapt these concepts to suit their individual personalities and situations. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to building relationships.
  • Patience and Compassion: Encourage patience, both with oneself and with others. Building meaningful relationships doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s important to be compassionate with oneself through the process.
  • Lead by Example: finding a leader (good example) whose approach to building relationships can serve as a powerful example. Ask them to share their experiences, including the challenges, to show that it’s a shared journey.

By incorporating these strategies, the group can gradually shift these concepts from being mere ideas to natural, integral parts of their daily interactions and relationships. It’s about creating a supportive and proactive environment where personal growth is encouraged and celebrated.

Team Activity

I created a lesson plan to help walk teams through a discussion and practices to empower group members to understand and overcome common barriers in forming authentic one-on-one relationships in hopes to leave members feeling encouraged and celebrated.

Lesson Plan, Scenarios for Overcoming Barriers, Mindfulness Exercises to print off.