Make genuine connections with people and feel less lonely: here’s how
Learning how to make genuine connections with people should be a lifelong mission. There are lots of things you can say about the human race – and one thing that we all know is that humans are social beings. We hate being alone for any great length of time; we thrive on being with others and we genuinely need each other to survive.
If you want to feel less lonely then there are a few things you can do to start to make more genuine connections with people. Even if you might consider yourself to be a “loner”, it still makes sense to reach out to people. The impacts of loneliness can’t be ignored. There was a great article in the New York Times which talked about the surprising effects of loneliness on health.
Investigative journalist By Jane E. Brody says, “Research (found) that loneliness can impair health by raising levels of stress hormones and inflammation, which in turn can increase the risk of heart disease, arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, dementia, and even suicide attempts”. An interesting finding of the study was that isolation and loneliness are different things; you can be isolated and not lonely, or you can be surrounded by people, and still feel very lonely. The difference seems to be about making genuine connections with people.
Genuine connections with people do take a bit of work. After all, you need to be emotionally available, willing to connect and have the ability to find common ground with people. Here are a few ways you can really begin to make those genuine connections with people; which in turn could really help your mental health, and make you feel more worthwhile; and happier. Isn’t that the goal in the end?
How does isolation occur?
Could social isolation be killing us? “True social isolation over years and decades can be a chronic condition affecting all aspects of a person’s existence. Social isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness, fear of others, or negative self-esteem,” says Dhruv Khullar in The New York Times. When you feel like you can’t interact with the world, you can create a pattern in your life, where you feel too isolated to reach out, causing fear, and making the problem even worse.
There are many causes of social isolation. Causes might be a family crisis, poor health or disabilities, loss of a spouse, living alone, unemployment, aging, societal adversity (this is the “desire to avoid the discomfort, dangers, and responsibilities arising from being among people”), or even mental health issues.
How do I become more emotionally available?
To make genuine connections with people, you need to be emotionally available, and you need to “open up”. This can be difficult, as it requires a lot of trust, and people can and do get hurt when they reach out to people.
Kyle Benson has an excellent article on becoming more emotionally available, and learning to trust people, and connect with them. I urge you to read the article, but he offers some suggestions like, taking a hard look at the beliefs you have about yourself in your relationship; making your partner’s (other person’s) needs and feelings equal to yours; stopping living a “secret life” (reaching out); and working on taking responsibility for your emotions.
How do I find common ground with someone?
There are many ways to find common ground with people you want to make a genuine connection with. Maybe you have a shared hobby, like wanting to set a goal to become a successful writer or to form a community group to tackle a local issue. Finding common ground could be something as simple as having one shared interest or opinion.
There’s even a “common ground technique” detailed here, where you can “search for signals of recognition, which are often subtle and prone to misunderstanding”, these might include facial expressions, and other social cues.
How can I be more willing to connect?
This depends on what stage of life you are at. Making friends is often perceived to be more difficult as we age, but this doesn’t need to be the case. For example, there are retirement villages across the world where community connections are fostered and encouraged. New mothers often report feeling socially isolated due to the effort of rearing babies, so finding a local mothers’ group is something to try, for example.
But to truly be willing to connect, you need to be brave. Lots of people feel the same way as you, so acknowledge that and realise that you are not alone in your thoughts – there is nothing wrong with you if you feel social anxiety – in fact, most of us do at some point in our lives. Start small, and aim to reach out to just one person a week – even if it’s just saying hello and asking about their day.
Genuine connections can be found anywhere
Loom first to your local community, then consider reaching out to someone you have lots of contact with. Then think of the people in your life; do you have an older relative that might appreciate a visit or a friend who also seems to be struggling?
Try to do just one thing a week, and go easy on other people too. If the connections you try to make don’t work, don’t give up – keep trying. Treat people how you would wish to be treated and go easy on yourself and others.