Dr. Judith Wright | February 5, 2019

We Are All Connected: Engaging with Others

Engaging with others is part of living a truly great life. After all, surrounding ourselves with others and building our connections is one of the ways we learn and grow.

Would you like to get better at engaging with others? We all share a human connection, here’s how to tap into our common bond for more meaningful interactions.


Our connections to one another are ingrained in our very humanity.

As the saying goes, no man is an island. If we want to tap into our personal power and reach our highest potential, we need support from others. We need to become more engaged with our friends, allies, and the people we encounter.

But what does engaging with others really mean? We hear advice about becoming more engaged at work, more engaged socially, more engaged with our communities…but many people aren’t sure where to start. What does it really mean to engage?

What It Means to Really Engage

To reach our fullest potential, we need to understand ourselves, our environment, our career, and our lives. To gain a deeper, fuller understanding, we must dive in and engage.

When we’re engaged, we’re more present, more aware, more mindful, and conscious of what’s going on around us. Engaged people are in touch with what drives them and propels them forward. They’ve identified their yearnings and are working to fulfill them.

No matter what we’re doing in life, we can explore the deeper yearning driving us. For example, I speak up because I yearn to matter. I go to school because I yearn for accomplishments. I’m expressing myself because I yearn to create.

There is a deeper why—a longing of the heart—propelling us toward most of our activities. As we explore those yearnings and deep drivers, we gain an understanding of ourselves. We also gain a deeper understanding of other people and their yearnings.


It is the moment-by-moment practice of engaging that helps you become more spontaneous and more present in each moment. You step outside your comfort zone, try new things, take risks, and turn your life from a routine into an adventure…
…If you’re like most people, you’re scratching your head and wondering what it really means to engage. Some of you may believe that engaging means paying attention. You listen to every word your husband says (and could even repeat it back). Some of you may think it means focusing on the task at hand. You concentrate on your work assignments and don’t allow your attention to wander.
These are all forms of engaging, but they are probably not full engagement because you have feelings, urges, and yearnings that you aren’t bringing to bear. Engaging is a deeper and wider concept than just listening or concentrating, though these are important elements of engaging.
To be truly engaged, your yearning and your emotions must be involved. You may be completely focused on your new boss at work, a new date, or shopping at an exclusive new store, but even if you are totally turned on by your favorite designer’s hot new collection, these activities don’t satisfy a deeper yearning, and therefore your engagement takes place only on a superficial level. Worrying about the new boss, being curious about the new date or, sorry to say, even finding the hottest new designer shoes doesn’t qualify as fulfilling a yearning, nor does being kind of high and buzzed constitute real emotion.
Similarly, if your mind is into something but your heart is not, you’re lacking the emotional involvement that distinguishes true engagement. Just as emotions help us sense what we yearn for, they are the litmus test for full engagement. We feel an experience deeply when we’re fully engaged in it. So when we ask if you’re engaged, we’re asking if you’re involved in a given activity with your heart, mind, and soul. We’re asking if you are so intimately connected to a given task that you are willing to step out of your comfort zone and push yourself to get it done right. We’re asking if you’re taking risks and stretching yourself in ways that might feel uncomfortable but also provide you with such a spark that you feel as if you could set the world on fire with a touch of your hand.
 Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living

Engaging is exciting! In fact, engaging has a ripple effect throughout our lives—every area becomes more enriching and juicier as you become more engaged. You’ll face greater challenges, you’ll tackle new endeavors, you’ll reach for new heights. As you engage, you’ll discover new aspects of yourself you didn’t realize existed and you’ll find more joy and satisfaction in your activities.

This sounds pretty great, right? You’re probably thinking, “I want more of that!” So why do we get so much out of engaging with others and following our urges? How do we become better engagers?

Understanding the Engagement Continuum

To understand why engaging with others is so powerful, we should understand engagement exists on a continuum.

Wright's Model of the Engagement Continuum

On one side of the engagement continuum, there’s the person who’s not listening at all. Imagine grunts, uh-huh, yup, nope, and yeah: the most minimal answers possible and extremely low to no engagement.

Then as you move across the continuum, you get the typical “small talk”:

What about all this rain?

Cute shirt.

Thank goodness it’s Friday, right?

Did you see the game this weekend?

Not exactly groundbreaking conversation, right? Small talk is simply words to fill up the silence. It is used when someone wants deeper engagement but isn’t sure of the approach. It may simply be used when someone isn’t comfortable with the situation, like in an elevator, on the train, at the grocery store…

As we get further across the engagement continuum we start to see where true engagement happens. These are the moments when we’re truly engaging with others. We’re in touch with them. We’re connected. We’re fully present and conscious.


This deeper engagement requires you to understand your own feelings and yearnings. It also requires awareness of what other people are yearning for as well. This is where engagement becomes more profound and meaningful.


On farthest end of the continuum is transformative engagement. This is when a person says, “I’m in touch with myself. I’m in touch with you. I’m in touch with the yearnings of the world around us.” You discover yourself in the engagement and recognize those around you. This true state of intimacy happens when you challenge yourself to know every single part of who you are.

Engagement and intimacy are intertwined. The more engaged we are, the more intimate and close our connection. Engagement gives us greater personal power and influence. When we interact with others, they feel seen, heard, and cared about.

The Secrets of Excellent Engagers

If you want to get more out of your communication, start engaging on the deeper side of the continuum. Become emotionally and cognitively present. Tap into your yearnings and the yearnings of those around you.

Remember, activity and attention aren’t the same as engagement. You may feel very focused and engrossed in the latest Netflix series or as you spend hours on Pinterest. You may be busy in the kitchen, at the gym, even at the office. But these aren’t examples of truly engaging.


True engagement works toward satisfying a yearning—not a simple want, but a deep longing. Busyness and even fun will pass the time, but they don’t usually satisfy our underlying yearnings.


Similarly, engagement doesn’t mean making sweeping changes (like quitting your job or moving to a new town). Even though these changes may seem like a magical solution to your problems or a way to meet your yearnings, we often end up emotionally in the same unsatisfied place.

Engaging isn’t a single-minded focus or an obsession, either. Imagine training for a marathon or a bike race. You may be highly driven and focused on your goal, but how are the other areas of your life fairing in the meantime? Often, we become deeply engaged in one area of our life, like work or a hobby, but we’re completely disengaged in other areas like family, spirituality, or friendships. This kind of obsessive engagement masks as achievement, but often leaves us empty. We still climb the same hill (or train for the next race) wondering why we never feel truly fulfilled.

When we’re only engaged in one area of our lives, like work, the area itself may even suffer. We may find we’re putting in long hours at the office, but our career is stalled. This is because we need 360 degree engagement, following our yearnings in all areas of our life to continue taking appropriate risks, learning and growing.

Truly great engagers have developed their grit. They keep going and aren’t afraid to make mistakes. They are willing to accept that growth is painful and hurts at times, and they still forge ahead. They seek novelty and new experiences. They explore their yearnings and the yearnings of others. They’re constantly learning and growing.

And what does all this engagement do for us?


Perhaps best of all, engaging gets you juiced. To transform, you need energy, and engaging is like plugging into your own personal power socket. It creates the momentum necessary to keep you moving through the steps of the process. It serves as a catalyst for the journey that Transformers take, providing the impetus to get you moving in a new direction.
Research from the relatively new field of positive psychology—created in order to study and apply scientific methods to aspects of living fulfilling lives—provides compelling evidence for why engaging is key to our happiness and well-being. Sometimes described as leading “an engaged life” or being “in the flow,” engaging is one of the key elements of authentic happiness.
The key to being happy at work can be seen as intentional engaging—being curious, taking initiative, suggesting improvements, asking for additional work, helping others, and being creative. It seems we are designed to derive pleasure from engaging. Neuroscientists have discovered that our brains light up in ways that result in positive experiences when we are engaging in new things. The novelty of engaging helps facilitate our brain plasticity and, ultimately, our transformation by activating the property of the brain that allows us to learn, grow, change, and fulfill our potential. Neuroscience shows that it is only by engaging—being aware, paying attention, and intentionally doing new things—that we learn, grow, and ultimately transform into someone doing something that would have been unimaginable without full engagement.
Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living

So, if you’re ready to truly discover your connections with others and tap into your fullest potential, engage! Test it out—take a day where you focus on being more mindful, more deeply engaged in each interaction and conversation. See how often you can operate on the right side of the engagement continuum and watch what happens.

Engagement is a lifelong process, a key to our growth and transformation. If you’re ready to start living your best life, become more engaged.

For more on tapping into your fullest potential and personal power, please visit us at the Wright Foundation. Explore the courses and great resources we offer on our site, to help you stretch your skills and connect with others. Join us for an upcoming networking event where you’ll meet and connect with others on their journey.


About the Author

Judith Wright receives the Visionary Leader Award from Chicago NAWBO.

Dr. Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach.
She is a co-founder of The Wright Foundation and the Wright Graduate University.


Loving the content and want more? Follow Judith on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

Liked this post and want more? Sign up for updates – free!

The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

SHARE THE LOVE!

RELATED POSTS