In the upcoming months we’ll be asking women in technology, media, arts and science about their view on important and topical issues. This month’s issue: the loss of connection, connection with others and ourselves. Sharing her views on this topic is Wassila Hachchi (1980), former military officer and member of the Dutch Parliament and the founder of Mindvalley Nederland – a leading online personal development- and training platform. Hachchi is a speaker, coach and trainer in (Self) Dialogue and she educates at The School of Life Amsterdam.
You have a background in the military. Is this an environment with a lot or a lack of connection?
When I ask people whether they think the military or the world of politics have a higher level of ‘connection’, they always raise their hand in favour of politics. They say “of course, the military is a men’s world, it’s hard, so probably that’s the one with a lack of human connection”. But it is exactly the other way around. Working as a military officer, I experienced the essence of human connection. In order to become an officer and to be seen as a leader you have to understand that leadership is something that others give to you. You don’t claim to be an officer and to be a leader. It’s about how you serve, how people start perceiving you as their leader. And how do you get there? With human connection, understanding your team, understanding your people. Being a great connector makes you a great officer. One of the ways to become a great connector is being a great listener. If you don’t know what’s happening in your team, in their own lives, people cannot feel connected with you and, therefore, won’t catch the bullet. So even in situations of danger, people need to trust you as their leader, they need to feel connected with you. That’s the only reason why people are willing to risk their own life.
What kind of disconnection has made you start your research about the role of the dialogue in connection?
The political arena was the first environment where I experienced a severe lack of human connection. In less than one year working as a politician, I felt my energy drain out of me. I went from the military environment where you give your life for your colleagues, to an environment where you cannot trust anyone: you cannot have friends in politics. I had a hard time adjusting to my new job. It was a painful to realize my disconnection, but at the same time this was a very powerful realization. Politics became the birthplace of my passion for dialogue, my passion for human connection – which I now call ‘being a messenger of dialogue’.
For me, dialogue is not just the use of words, it’s understanding the power of words, but it’s also about listening. That’s more than just hearing with your ears and thinking before you speak – it’s understanding that there is more and that the quality of the connection you have with yourself is the baseline for the quality of the connection you can make with other people.
In which topical fields can dialogue bring progress?
Let’s say that dialogue, human connection, is relevant and important everywhere where you have to deal with human beings. And don’t miss out on the notion that great connection with other people starts with the connection you have with yourself. When people realize this, they can start bringing the best version of themselves to the surface. This than reflects in each and every external connection. Let’s take for example the workspace. You spend a lot of time and hours, love, passion, and energy in the workspace. If you cannot do this in a genuine way, feeling internally connected, this affects the whole team. For everybody to feel that they can bring their full, true selves to work, dialogue is an essential tool. This starts with communication, the use of words, in-person verbal communication, and understanding how you can improve that. But that’s just the surface, when you go deeper you start understanding that dialogue is more than just communication. It’s real connection. Connecting the best versions of every single person in the team.