The Connection Cycle and How it Helps Deepen Relationships

The Connection Cycle and How it Helps Deepen Relationships

I gave a talk this past weekend at a conference put on by an awesome tea company called PlumDeluxe. Besides the fact that their teas are delicious, they also host an annual customer conference and have a very engaged and thoughtful community. 

In that talk, I spoke about The Connection Cycle - a cycle of three steps that can create moments of connection with others as we intentionally repeat the cycle. Those moments of connection, much more than the amount of time we spend together, are what deepen our relationship with the other person. Quality of time spent together far outweighs the quantity of time spent together. I came across this concept in the ‘Power of Moments’, a book by Chip and Dan Heath who researched why certain experiences in our lives have an extraordinary impact. 

So, what are the three steps? 

  1. Ask a curious question about the other person.
  2. Respond with understanding: repeat to them what you heard, ask a clarifying question.
  3. Take turns doing that with each other.


To connect with others, we play tennis: go back and forth, asking & listening, and through that repeated cycle increase the level of emotional intimacy between us. We comfortably reveal more and more of ourselves to our friends, colleagues, family members as we get to learn about them in turn.

This past weekend, I caught up with a friend whom I haven’t seen or talked to in a while. We had lots to talk about so we dove right into this cycle: one of us posed a question and we took turns answering and seeking to understand the other person deeply. Questions got deeper and deeper (from how has your summer been to how are you feeling about this new person in your life) and by the end of the 1.5 hr conversation I felt even more connected with my friend. It seemed like no time had passed since our last conversation and that our friendship advanced as a result of going through The Connection Cycle.  

This Cycle might not be a new concept for you, and yet, we all inevitably fail at going through it on a regular basis. Oftentimes, it is not about knowing a thing, it is about doing it. 

So, what makes ‘doing’ this Cycle difficult? Some common mistakes include:


  1. Listening and then responding about oneself rather than expressing understanding and going deeper.
  2. Just ‘dumping’ emotion in a one way monologue (unless the situation calls for it). 
  3. Playing tennis until you have the ball and then being a ball hog, controlling the conversation. 
  4. Not actually being curious about the other person, not asking questions. 

We have all been part of conversations in which we felt we talked too much and didn’t learn anything about the other person, or conversations in which we felt we couldn’t get a word in because the other person spoke the whole time. Given exception to the times when one of us needs a listening ear, those conversations are most often not how moments of connection get created. 

Keeping The Connection Cycle top of mind allows us to be intentional about how we build our relationships with others, and notice when certain relationships are advancing/not advancing as we’d like them to. 

How are you going to apply The Connection Cycle with people in your life? We'd love to hear from you.  

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