When I started this blog series, I had a carefully curated cadence of articles bundled nicely into specific topics. Over the past couple of months, I’ve abandoned this pattern and gone with my gut. I’m glad I did because it’s opened my mind to new ideas and led me down paths I hadn’t intended to explore. It’s also allowed me to experience the idea of making meaningful connections through the eyes of others.

That’s what happened last week. I was on a flight from Atlanta home to Columbus, Ohio and was fully prepared to plug into my phone and zone out for the next 90 minutes. Then I realized that the guy next to me, Lenny, wanted to chat. I quickly took my earbuds out and dove into conversation.

I take flying for granted because I do it so frequently. Lenny only flies twice a year in order to get to a work meeting. He told me he always hopes there is a friendly person next to the window (that’s where I was) who doesn’t mind him looking out for most of the flight. I told him I didn’t mind and that it was refreshing to see someone who was excited about seeing the landscape and horizon from the airplane window.

I could have gotten really ticked off at Lenny for a) talking to me or b) looking over me the whole flight. Instead, I was excited.

I was excited to be sharing this experience with someone who was not only grateful for the flight, but who shared openly with me about his family, job and hobbies. (Three children, two grandchildren + one on the way, wife who is a teacher; medical supply sales rep who works from his home; an avid Georgia football fan (we shared a brief Alabama bashing moment).

Shared experiences promote a sense of bonding unlike any social media like or phone call could ever create. Think about all of the moments you experience every day. Everything from the mundane (commuting) to the exciting (going to a concert). Think about those experiences through the eyes of someone who doesn’t experience them regularly – or who is is seeing them for the first time.

No matter what we are experiencing in life, it’s possible that someone is experiencing it for the first time.

I’ve flown dozens of times, but I won’t forget this flight. Thanks, Lenny, for reminding me that we are all one conversation with a stranger away from making our big world feel like a smaller place.

How can you create a shared experience in order to foster building meaningful connections with others?

What can you do to experience something new with someone for the first time? It could be as simple as inviting someone to your favorite restaurant or watching your favorite movie / sporting event / entertainer together for the first time.

I’d love to hear about shared experiences that helped you deepen your connection with someone.

52 Weeks of Meaningful Connections is offered by Small Town Leadership. If you would like to see how much progress you can make toward making our big world feel like a smaller place, SIGN UP to receive these articles on a weekly basis.

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Small Town Leadership Founder; Natalie believes everything she needed to know to succeed in her career she learned by growing up in a town of 600 people. As a Certified Professional Coach and award-winning public speaker, she helps her clients and audiences make wherever they are feel like a small town. She lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband, Rob, a professor at Ohio State and two little girls.

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