You can connect with a stranger in a few minutes. Yet be unable to connect with someone you’ve known for years.
Connecting is a sense of being open and available to another person, and they to you. Connection needs empathy and compassion — we feel rest and ease with the person we are connecting with.
We are suffering from a loneliness epidemic and we think it’s more friendships we crave, but what we really desire is to feel understood, to bond deeply, to share our happiness and know we’re not alone in our pain. We want to sit in the comfort of all that we are—the good, the bad, and the ugly—without being judged or having those we love run for the hills.
We say we want connection, but the truth is that connection is too much for many of us to handle. Connection is a gamble of trust and vulnerability. Instead, we want to protect ourselves and keep ourselves safe. It is letting go, with the right people, that we need.
Even then, we cannot guarantee that we won’t be hurt or betrayed. That’s why only the brave and courageous dare to love and even dare to love again.
You don’t need more friends. You need to accept people as they are, then determine if they’re a fit for your life. You might feel frustrated that someone won’t change for you, but you cannot force people to change. We think that if people love us, they will at least make an effort, but they might not know how. They might not have been taught any different. You must decide if you are okay with relating with them as they are. If not, devote more energy to someone willing to cultivate a deeper connection with you.
Connection can also be cultivated outside of people. You can find connection in God, animals, nature, or creativity. Connection is more about the meaning you give to something.
Relationships are not a title but the exchange of meaningful interaction with others. Relationships are built on rapport, a type of agreement, mutual understanding, and empathy that makes conversing feel easy.
You can love your mom, dad, or lover but not have a relationship with them. Instead, you may have created an unspoken rule about how to relate without actually relating. To build strong connections, both people have to be willing to be vulnerable and committed to understanding the other.
Instead of evaluating the meaning of your relationship based on a title, start evaluating them based on mutual exchange, effort, and vulnerability. Nurture those relationships that already provide that for you.
Connection takes the first step in inviting conversation and friendship. If you want connection, you must initiate it. Connection is a bid for intimacy. People might be skeptical about your motive for connecting because, let’s face it, we’ve all had disappointment, but that’s a risk we take. Take a step back and remember another person’s hesitancy to create intimacy is not about you. We’re all dealing with past traumas, social anxiety, fear, and shame that make trusting difficult. People need time. You initiate the first step, but ultimately, you decide how much effort you are willing to make before seeking more receptive relationships.
Here’s what connecting can look like…
Having an intimate conversation about what’s important to you while feeling heard, understood, and validated. Catching a stranger’s eye and both smiling. Gently squeezing someone’s hand in reassurance, though words aren’t exchanged. Listening to someone and empathizing with them. Sitting together in comfortable silence without feeling the need to prove or be anything else. Having a desire to help someone out of good intention. Being appreciative of another person and receiving their appreciation. A shared experience with others that involves laughter and goodwill.
You don’t need more friends. You need stronger connections.
Go where people are open to you and can have meaningful conversations. Commit to spending more time with people who already make an effort to connect with you. Ask more questions. Share more of yourself with those you want to build relationships with. Tell someone how much you appreciate them. Tell someone you’re thinking of them. Seek out potential people to connect with.
Remember, connection can happen in a moment, in unsuspecting places. Keep your eyes and heart open for deeper relating.