Excuses to Connect – Making meaningful connections easier
Richard is the founder of Excuses to Connect focusing on human and meaningful connections. We like how serious and professional he is about it. Thanks to Richard and enjoy the interview down below!
Tell us about yourself and Excuses to Connect
My name is Richard Lee-Thai and I’m the Founder of Excuses to Connect, a business focused on making meaningful connections easier. This includes one-on-one coaching, podcasting, public speaking, workshops, and merchandise. As a Connection Coach, I support individuals and organisations with building their social confidence and fostering communities where everyone feels like they belong.
Why is this important to me? It’s to combat loneliness. One of the most heartbreaking things to me is knowing that there are people who have no one they can reach out to. There’s no shoulder to cry on when things are going bad, and no friends to celebrate with when things are going well. Especially during the pandemic, I’ve often heard stories of how people have become increasingly isolated and struggling to meet new people or deepen their existing relationships.
In short, we’re wired for connection and it’s foundational for our well-being. However, there can still be many barriers in place to making these meaningful connections. For me, it was primarily my internal fears. I was afraid I would be rejected, or that I would be awkward, or that I would be bothering someone if I were to approach them. So I would stay within my comfort zone, where it was safe and familiar. But I gradually became more lonely. I would daydream about having lots of friends, a community where I felt belonging, and being able to share amazing experiences with other people. I could daydream all I wanted, but nothing would change unless I took action.
I realised that I could design social interactions in a way that made it easier for myself, and that came in the form of finding an excuse to connect. In other words, if I imagine myself as a dot, and a stranger as another dot, what is the third thing in this triangle that could bridge this gap? This model is adapted and expanded upon from the “triangulation” strategy in Kio Stark’s TED Talk. Excuses to Connect is all about finding ways to close the perceived distance between you and another person.
What is your vision with Excuses to Connect?
There are many examples of human connection, storytelling, or community-building initiatives, but what they all have in common is creating an excuse to connect. Whether it’s creating excuses to connect in schools, workplaces, or neighbourhoods, there are ways to design social interactions so that it’s as easy as possible and has the highest likelihood to succeed. The term “excuse to connect” can become part of our common vocabulary. By finding and creating excuses to connect, you are a Connector.
My ultimate vision is to empower and connect Connectors, and together, we can transform our lives and the lives of others, one connection at a time.
What is Excuses to Connect currently working on?
I recently hosted a panel discussion on “How To Make Meaningful Connections Online and In-Person” featuring 3 of my previous podcast guests. The event had over 65 attendees, and also had people from all around the world.
The first panelist was Ahmad Jabbir from Toronto, Canada. He will be an upcoming TEDx Speaker delivering a talk entitled “Why You Should Pursue Social Discomfort”.
Aakash Dhingra is from Goa, India, and he is the creator of Compassion Cards, a conversation-based card game designed to unlock the capacity for compassion in humanity.
Lastly, I had Cherie Werner from Austin, USA, who is the co-founder and Chief Kindness Officer at KOYA, a social platform designed to create intentional connections.
I am continuing to publish episodes of my Excuses to Connect podcast, which features people who are running human connection initiatives. Two of my major goals that I will accomplish by the end of 2022 is publishing a book and speaking at major conferences and events about how to find excuses to connect.
What are some important principles and useful resources to get into the topic of human connections in your view?
My motto is: “You never know how any connection can transform your life.” Connections can happen anytime and anywhere. Case in point, you’re here reading this article now and you may have never met me before. But now our lives have intersected and you have the opportunity to follow up.
Growing your relationships with people is like growing a plant. When you first meet someone, it is like planting a new seed. You have the choice to invest time and energy in order to cultivate that seed, or you can just let it wither. This is not to say that you need to cultivate every seed. It’s an invitation to reflect on who are the people that you want to surround yourself with, and what steps you can take to deepen those relationships.
Having said all of this, it’s important to recognise that meeting new people and making friends can be hard, but also that you’re not alone in this struggle. As someone goes through various life transitions, such as graduating from school, moving to a new city, getting married, starting a new job, it’s inevitable that one’s social network will shift. Not to mention the many other factors that can disrupt our relationships, such as the loss of loved ones, a global pandemic, or systemic issues of inequality and discrimination.
Fortunately, there is a lot of existing research, practitioners, and resources when it comes to making meaningful connections. What I’ve said above can serve as an overview of things to keep in mind, but I would encourage you to check out the Resources tab on my website that will be continually updated with new books, videos, podcasts, and more.
Tell us about your favorite products, tools, life hacks in daily life
While there are many products and tools that I use, let me just list a few. I’m a big fan of We’re Not Really Strangers. This is a conversation-based card game designed to help people connect with each other on a deep level. I’ve played it with strangers and friends, and have always had a positive experience.
I would also highly recommend Lunchclub. This is a platform where you are paired up with people with similar interests for weekly one-on-one conversations. Everyone on there is wanting to connect on a meaningful level, not just for transactional purposes. There was one time when I was paired up with a Vice President from Adidas and we had a great chat!
Whatever you’re interested in, think of where you could find people with people that share those interests. Meetup is great for this! I’m personally interested in public speaking, so I’m a proud member of Toastmasters. I’m also interested in community service and I’m part of a Rotary club. Both of these are international organisations that have chapters all around the world, and I’ve made many meaningful connections.
Lastly, I would recommend the work of Kristin Neff. She is a leading researcher in the field of self-compassion. Connecting with others also requires connecting with ourselves. What is our relationship to ourselves? Is it self-critical or self-compassionate? I’ve utilised many of Kristin’s meditations, research, and her book to lead a life where I am connected with myself.
Finally, I also wanted to say
Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet. It's a combination of intentional effort and luck for the lives of any two people to intersect. I'm honoured that you've made it here.
Why not make this an excuse to connect with me? Shoot me a message on LinkedIn or Instagram, or email me at email@example.com! If you care about connections, I want to connect with you.
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