If you really want to have authentic relationships, you have to get out of the group and get some one-on-one time.
One of my favorite Seinfeld episodes is "The Dog". It's the one where Jerry, George and Elaine were supposed to see the movie "Prognosis Negative" but Jerry informs them that the has to take care of a dog and asks them to go without him. George and Elaine realize they don't have a lot in common without Jerry around. It is extremely awkward for a time and you realize that they've never been one on one. Jerry has been the glue to their relationship and without him, they have no real connection. That is until they start making fun of his quirks. The episode, like all of them, is pretty hilarious but it got me thinking about one on one time in relationships.
Do you find yourself calling certain people close friends and one day realize that you've never spent any one on one time with them?
Before I explore the importance of one on one time, let's look at the alternative.
The Benefits of Groups
Group environments can be extremely welcoming when you are connecting with new people. When you have a group of people, conversation tends to flow pretty smoothly. With 3 or more people, you almost always have someone to contribute to the conversation. However, you may find that every group has its "Jerry". They are the glue that keeps everyone together. They have the ability to know each person individually and still facilitate connections in the group.
Group conversations and activities always tend to be more fun. Even when you don't connect particularly well with one person, you always have someone else that makes you comfortable. It can also provide a safe environment to get to know others that you might not necessarily speak to otherwise.
The drawback is that the group connection you feel can foster a false sense of intimacy. Getting to know "about" someone isn't the same as getting to know who they really are. Knowing someone's favorite restaurant or their pet peeves is not the same as understanding what makes them tick, so to speak.
You can only go so far in a group setting.
Focused On One
The one on one dynamic is a completely different world. You now have the full rapt attention of one other person. Some people never experience this in their entire life. I've had conversations with people in this context that were completely uncomfortable. When I get someone one on one, I ask a ton of questions. I once had someone stop mid-sentence as they were telling me about themselves and say "Am I boring you? This doesn't seem interesting at all".
Breaking Down Walls
When you show an authentic interest and concern for someone and give them your complete attention, you'll find that walls begin to come down. Again, some people have never had someone focus solely on them and ask them about themselves. Once they realize that you are a safe place, they will open up to you.
I like to start simply by saying, "Tell me about yourself". From the first few responses of where they grew up, to the number of siblings they have, they will begin to share their opinions, their dreams and their ambitions. It is a beautiful experience that comes only through one on one time.
This is a pretty big honor and it is critical to assure the other person that you respect their privacy and you can be trusted with their heart. Obviously, trust is a critical part of any relationship. Don't assume that this is understood, make an effort to thank the person and assure them that you will honor what they have shared.
While spending time in groups is great fun and a great compliment to relationships, one on one time is the glue that will connect you authentically. This extends beyond friends to dating and marriages. Don't allow the group mentality to be your escape from true intimacy. This can only come through one on one focus and attention.
What are your thoughts? How do you feel about one on one time?