All sorts of people breeze in and out of our lives who we deem ‘friends’, acquaintances, co workers, classmates, social media followers etc. What we really yearn for are ‘real’ connections. People we can count on. Friends who enjoy us. Pals who will stand by our side when times are tough. Companions who’ll both laugh and cry with us. Real friends who will stand the test of time.
As human beings we all long for real human connections. Even in our busy day to day lives with people around us, these genuine connections can be hard to find.
Here’s a few things that have helped me along the way:
1: Quality vs Quantity.
In the last year I’ve made it a point to keep my social circle small, but with deeper connections. Real human connections are needed to be happy and fulfilled. The best job in the world, all the money in the world and all the possessions in the world won’t matter matter much if you’re lonely and have no real connections. The majority of people focus on the quantity of friends that they have as opposed to the quality of friends they have. Quality and depth is the most important thing when it comes to friendships.
2: Be open about yourself.
Often when we meet new people we try to present the best side of ourselves. We try to come across as being super confident, competent, knowledgeable, interesting funny and smart. That’s a front, it’s only part of who we are, the good part. Why connect with somebody if you are going to give them a false identity. As scary as it seems, open yourself up and show the real you. Becoming vulnerable is risky but you’ll be sure to reap the rewards. You gain a deeper connection, trust and in lue a better friendship. Once you have developed your own interests and character, share it with the people around you. When you become enthusiastic about what you love then others will want to be around that enthusiasm and friendships will begin to manifest.
3: Be open to random connections.
While I accept fewer invitations these days, when I randomly meet someone I try to remain open. Opening up, wondering who they are and setting aside any pre judgements. Share who you are openly and positively.
Accept the other person for who they are. Don’t pigeon hole them. Be curious. If we want to get to know someone we must delve below the surface. Asking deeper questions moves the conversation from niceties towards intimacy and vulnerability. There, we really get to know someone.
The more you expose yourself to the world, the more likely you are to attract different people into your life. This isn’t magic, it is simply the result of being in the right place at the right time and becoming open to whatever happens in the moment.
4: Engage with your emotions.
If you want real friendships, be ready to open up your emotional self. Connections progress through shared storytelling, shared experiences, and shared emotion. Being emotionally open requires trust and courage when you allow someone in. In return you get to know these places in them as well. It’s a reciprocal action and a necessary step in building real genuine connections. I don’t believe in over sharing but the more risks we take in being vulnerable, the more people are drawn to us as we are relatable. Think about it, a true friend is sort of like a therapist. Besides your family, who do you tell your problems to? Your true friends are the people who will listen to whatever you’re going through, good or bad. They’re attentive listeners. They make sound suggestions and support your happiness.
5: Treat friendships as an investment.
Friendship, as with anything else is an investment. What does an investment require? Time.
Friendship is something that is to be cultivated over longer time as opposed to a shorter time period. You are simply cultivating an acquaintance if your perspective is focused on short term. Meet friends on a 1:1 basis, cultivate a friendship before introducing alcohol and leave the phone at home! A pet peeve of mine is when people answer calls, reply to texts or feel the need to document the whole encounter on social media from beginning to end. (I too fell into this trap at one time). It is not necessary, do it on your own time!
6: Be the friend you want to have.
We all tend to attract people into our lives whose character mirrors our own. Be a true friend yourself. Though, you want the other person to be a true friend, being one yourself allows you to attract the right person. Surround yourself with people who want to lift you up. Real friends want to see you shine. Listen deeply rather than waiting to talk about yourself. Real friends challenge you to grow and they grow with you, you call each other out and you point out when you’re not living up to your values. Surround yourself with people who fan your flame and practice what they preach. A friendship is supposed to be a supportive union between two people. Be there for your real friends when you can. Do they need you? Is there anything you can help them with? How can you support them?
7: Real genuine connections are a two way street, make the effort.
Continued effort is required to maintain real connections. Willingness to make the effort is what differentiates real friendships from acquaintances and friendships of convenience. Call your friends, meet up regularly, reach out. Depending on the relationship you could meet every few days or few weeks! For some of my best friends we meet every week or two, yet, never doubt that we’re closely connected and will be there for each other when needed. Catch up via phone call or text message (personally I prefer not to text as messages can be interpreted in any manner the recipient wishes to read it). Technology has made communication so easy it’s difficult not to stay in touch.
8: Put down the phone, make conversation with people.
When you’re on the go, at the gym, in line or at the register and you’re on the phone, there’s a lot of missed connection happening. Make eye contact and converse with other people. When we disconnect from scrolling on our phones there are a lot of people around us to connect with.
9: You are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.
Be who you are. You are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that is OK. The truth is, not everyone is going to get you, and not everyone will like you. It’s likely that you won’t like everyone you come across, either. There will be people who take a glance at you and dismiss you from their circle immediately. There will be those who want you to jump through hoops and run marathons for them, only to drop you like a hot cake when there’s nothing in it for them. There will be people who will never take the time to see you and appreciate you for the beautiful, amazing person you are. Don’t waste your time on those people.
Life is so much better when we make real genuine connections. We are happier, less isolated, more creative and have access to new opportunities. What are you waiting for, go out there and make some REAL connections.