The Art of Connecting with Others
Would you like to have outstanding, fulfilling relationships? Both friendship and romantic? I would imagine most peoples answer to that question would be a resounding yes! I certainly find this to be one of the most important and fulfilling aspects of life, having deep connections with several people to whom I am close. It makes such a monumental difference in life satisfaction and happiness.
The following suggestions, when put into practice, will help immensely. It took me until my late twenties to figure these out, and I still actively work on them. However, in putting these ideas into action, I have never been happier with my relationships/social life than I am now so I can tell you personally, it is absolutely worth the time and effort.
You too will notice a marked difference in your relationships with others in following these suggestions....(which I amassed from books, articles I have read over the years, and my own personal experiences).
1. Become a GREAT listener. This is #1 for a reason. You cannot and will not be truly connecting deeply with another person unless you learn to do this. And trust me, you aren't as good of a listener as you think you are. The vast majority of people think they are good at this, and I can tell you both from experience and from the piles of non-fiction and psychology based reading I do that in fact, the majority of people are quite bad at it.
If you are thinking of how you will respond as someone is speaking to you, then you aren't listening.
If you are talking or commenting over them as they speak, you aren't listening.
If you are forming opinions and thoughts as they talk, you aren't listening.
If you are itching for the other person to stop speaking so you can jump in and say your piece, you are not listening.
Get the idea?
Legit listening takes work and focus. It takes conscious effort and practice. It means simply taking in what is being said. Being fully present. Being mindful of and engaged in the emotional experience, words and message your speaking partner is trying to convey. It means attempting to inhabit their emotional state. True listening is hard work, but its well worth the effort. And because most people suck at this, if you become skilled in this arena, you have already set yourself well ahead of the pack.
For an article on the Huffington Post about how to be a great listener, go here.
A last note on this point. No one can be a standout listener 100% of the time. It isn't realistic, even for the best of us. But if you can shoot for 75-80% of the time, you will still be a far better listener than most ;-) and you will notice connections in your life beginning to deepen as a result.
2. Be willing to be vulnerable and open up. Yes, this sometimes means revealing private, personal or deep things/emotions within or about yourself. You cannot only be a great listener but never share anything of yourself This is a one sided connection and relationship, which makes it false.
Dont get me wrong, its important to choose carefully whom we do this with. Many people, even though we may like them, are not great choices to confide in. But when you do chose carefully and right? The feeling of revealing yourself and finding that you are still loved is a truly priceless and life changing one. And it will absolutely serve as a way to deepen your connections with those people.
3. To get love, you must give it. This one took me a long time to learn. The more desperate you are for love, the more you will silently repel and drive it away. Only when genuinely content and fulfilled within yourself and when you begin giving love away, both in action and in emotion, will it come back to you in abundance.
(Side note: giving love for the sake of receiving it back? This is falsely intention-ed love and will continue to backfire. This kind of love is coming from a hole inside of you that you are trying to fill, from a desperate place of need.
You must instead give love purely for the sake of giving it. Simply because you yourself are happy and overflowing. Then it will come back to you).
4. Off point #3, Expressing affection and friendship. This can be anything from loving words to a sentimental card given "just because", to a surprise visit, to offering a helping hand when your friend is moving or in some other need, to being a great listener, to dropping them a line to tell them they are in your thoughts. The list goes on.
Show your great friends what they mean to you. Invest in them. Put in effort in both word and action. This will deepen your relationships without question.
5. Be an open minded, non judgemental, safe harbor to whom your friends can come. If your friends and loved ones know they can confide in you, free of blame, condemnation and opinionated judgment, they will feel closer to you. They will choose you to confide in (which is an AWESOME feeling). All of this will invite deeper connection. If they know they will be heard and loved, you will never have a shortage of close friends.
6. On the same coin as point #5 though, being non judgmental and loving does NOT mean you never offer your own insights. To truly love someone means risking the relationship by offering the truth when you see or hear something concerning. You are willing to risk their being upset with you because you care about them too deeply to look away and say nothing. When you see your friend or loved one getting in their own way or venturing down a path that has potential to lead to harm, true friends say something. Not out of self righteousness, but out of caring and love.
7. Connecting deeply with others requires getting out of your own head. For most people, one of their favorite topics and primary concerns is anything related to themselves. This is partially human nature. However more often than not through, all of us are deeply wrapped up in the topic of "us" and "me." Our own feelings, our own problems and how we feel.
In order to deeply connect with others, you must step outside and away from this self centeredness.
8. Shared experiences. Deep relationships are built both through talking and secondly, through time spent together and shared memories. The more fun and varied moments you have with someone, this is another factor that goes towards deepening the relationship.