Building connection – with your eyes! How to do a proper ‘Skål’ (Cheers!) in Sweden

Building connection and relationship is a key part of every leader’s role.  But how to do it, and when are the opportunities?  In the UK (and indeed around the world) we have a routine of clinking glasses and saying ‘Cheers!’ when we have a drink with others.  In my experience, this is usually done in a perfunctory way, with a quick clink and on with the drinking.  But what’s this all about, and what does it tell us about connection?

There was an idea, now generally debunked, that in medieval times the clinking of glasses was about sloshing liquid from each vessel into the other to show that none of the drink was poisoned and that everyone could relax and be friends.  Whatever, it’s a moment when there is a general pause in the general chat whilst everyone focuses on the others present.

On a recent visit to Sweden I noticed that when a group of friends gathers for a meal, the observance of the ‘Cheers’ is carried out in a more meaningful way.  Agneta Castenberg, a colleague from the world of Solution Focused coaching, explained how it works.

  1. The host/hostess raises their glass. Everyone else does the same
  2. Everyone says ‘Skål!’
  3. You then raise your glass to drink
  4. While you do this, you make eye contact with everyone
  5. Then you drink
  6. Then you look around again and make eye contact again
  7. And you all nod together, like a mini-bow to the others
  8. And you wait for the host/hostess to put their glass down – then and only then can you put your own glass down.
Next time you find yourself saying ‘Cheers!’ or whatever, take time to make eye contact with everyone.  It adds to the connection and the idea that this is an important moment for us all to be together.  Perhaps not everyone will respond – the first time.   Keep it up!  And let us know your experiences below.
By the way I will be back in Sweden doing a Host Leadership session for the Clues centre in Karlstad soon – do check out their website.
Now watch Agneta explaining it all to me (in a rather dark bar on a sunny day).


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