Editor’s note: Triangle entrepreneur and thought leader Jes Averhart, CEO of Jes & Co and host of the “Reinvention Road Trip,” is a regular WRAL TechWire contributor who explores topics pertaining to reinvention, especially prompted by the onset of the global pandemic. Her columns appear weekly. This week she discusses the power of simple connections.

Note to readers: WRAL TechWire would like to hear from you about views expressed by our contributors. Please send email to: info@wraltechwire.com.


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Beautiful connections. These last seven days have been chalked full of sweet and subtle connections. From hosting out-of-town friends to raising a glass with our Road Trip Alum in celebration of three years in business, it’s been both precious and FUN!  This is especially notable because I’ve been on a plane every week since the end of May. And while I love racking up those SkyMiles, I don’t want to sacrifice my need to meaningfully connect with people along the way.

Jes Averhart

And I’m here to remind you that connecting doesn’t have to be hard, and it doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Small sparks…found in everyday micro-connections can provide an instant boost to your mood and sense of belonging. Don’t believe me? Give these a whirl:

  • Smile – Did you know that the simple act of smiling triggers the release of dopamine, endorphins and serotonin? Even a forced smile will flood your body with these happy hormones—and make you more approachable to others. Think of it as opening the door to connection.
  • Ask – Ask an open-ended question. Be curious and wonder how someone else might be thinking or feeling. Open-ended questions are more likely to start conversations than questions that can be answered with a yes or no.
  • Nod – This is my personal ‘small-but-mighty’ superpower. I find it’s the best way to communicate that I’m ‘tracking’ what someone else is saying without talking over them. Nodding signals that you’re on the same team and helps fuse a bond between you without saying a word.
  • Lean In – Like nodding, people read nonverbal cues, so be sure to lean in and give them your full attention. This simple action helps people feel safe and valued.
  • Relate – After someone shares something with you, you might be able to share something that shows you understand. (Just be sure not to one-up them with your story; nobody wants to hear you share that you suffered more than they did or were more successful than they were!)
  • Circle Back – After sharing, return to something they had previously mentioned, and ask another open-ended question. It a subtle acknowledgement that you were listening and are genuinely curious and engaged.
  • Look – Look them in the eye, that is. Eye contact activates empathy in the brain, connecting you to each other. (But don’t be weird about it. Ya know, don’t stare folks down.)
  • Touch – Making sure to respect boundaries with this one but, a light touch on the arm while talking or a pat on the back can deepen the conversation. A welcomed touch releases oxytocin, otherwise known as the “bonding hormone.”
    All of these micro-connections add up, fostering a feeling of belonging. In some cases, you can even experience rewarding bonds with strangers you see on the street or in the airport. Sooo…
  • Smile
  • Wave
  • Make a comment about something safe, like “Jeez it’s hot today.”
  • Better yet, share some humor, by adding something like, “I’m meltin’ out here!”

That said, I’m off to New Orleans today and looking forward to taking my own advice at Gate B9.  Next week we’ll delve into deeper ways to cement relationships and enhance bonds. Until then here’s the assignment: smile…ask …CONNECT!