Making authentic connections with others enables a rich, fulfilling life. When you’re engaged with others, it gives you a sense of belonging and feeling alive. So how do you make authentic connections with others? There are many ways to forge deep and meaningful relationships and here are some tips:
Develop a genuine interest
It’s not possible to develop authentic connections if you only pay lip service to the relationship. Genuine friendships and relationships need time and effort. This doesn’t mean that you have to call every day but consistent interactions are key. I have friendships that have lasted years yet we don’t often speak or see each other. When we do see each other we just carry on where we left off. This is because there is a genuine interest in the other person. I may not see some friends regularly but I still make time to text and keep in touch. When you genuinely care for someone, you want to know about their experiences, it isn’t merely a “Hello, how are you?” It’s about taking the time to understand their thoughts and feeling and the shared empathy that keeps relationships going.
Be willing to get up at 3am
When I think about genuine and authentic connections that I have, I know that they would come and get me at 3am if I asked them to. I always think that is a good sign of an authentic connection. I would do the same for them of they needed my help at an ungodly hour. That’s what good friends do for each other. Good friends would also help you out if you were ill or in hospital. Good friends will be there in times of trouble. If they aren’t, they probably aren’t authentic connections.
Fair-weather friends show themselves up when the going gets tough.
Remember special dates
I must admit, I am rubbish at this one but thankfully I have pretty easy going friends. Ideally, you should send your friends a card or a text message (at the very least) to let them know you are thinking of them on their birthday. Birthdays are more important than Christmas so do your best to have a calendar or book where you have all the dates of your closest friends’ birthdays. Sending a card by post has become outdated but it’s a lovely way to let someone know you have thought of them.
Maintain your integrity
Whatever you do, don’t gossip about friends behind their backs. Two-faced people tend to lose their authentic connections with others as they can’t be trusted. If you have mutual friends who gossip about each other, remain neutral and don’t get pulled into saying negative things about friends. You wouldn’t like it mutual friends gossiped about you unnecessarily so don’t do it to them. Being bitchy is very unattractive and you will lose friends in the long-run. Sure – no one is perfect and now and then we might moan about a friend who is constantly late. That isn’t the same as bitching about how she dresses or eats her food. That’s just mean.
The rule of thumb: Don’t say something that you wouldn’t be prepared to say to that person’s face.
Sharing and empathy
When we share experiences together , have a laugh together or just express empathy, we deepen the connection we have to others. When you feel as if some ‘gets you’ it’s as if you have an ally in the world. A kindred spirit that sees the world the way you do. Not only is this good for your mental health but it also releases a feel-good hormone called Oxytocin. It is also sometimes referred to as the “hug hormone” and creates a feel-good reaction. Oxytocin facilitates bonding. Oxytocin nose sprays have even been considered for use in treating autism. The neurological disorder is marked by struggles with social functioning.
Authentic connections reduce loneliness and mental health issues
Forging authentic connections is all about sharing and bonding. It’s easy to feel alone but when you know there are people out there that know you and understand you, it can carry you through those lonely times. We are social creatures at heart, it was part of our survival kit eons ago. We needed to be part of a pack to survive.
Clearly, we don’t need that now in the same way, but loneliness can be a killer. Spending too much time alone can lead to depression as well as increased anxiety. This is because when we are alone, we have more time to indulge in our thoughts, and inevitably the downward spiral of negative thinking creeps in. Our insecurities or fears of uncertainty can take over. When we see others, it breaks this dangerous pattern of overanalysing and being too insular.
A word on social anxiety
If you are socially anxious, take small steps towards including authentic connections in your life. Socially anxious people spend a lot of time worrying about how they are coming across. Their focus is inward. When you switch your focus to something external – for instance how others are dressed, what they are saying and doing, this can help social anxiety. Social anxiety involves imagining disastrous scenarios where they feel judged or rejected in some way. This often doesn’t happen in reality but the fear can be enough to make a socially anxious person avoid social situations. Avoidance is the worst possible strategy as you never reality test your fears. Small steps will get you there…perhaps meet one on one for a coffee first or tell yourself you will only stay for half an hour and then leave a party. There are many ways to gradually introduce yourself to social situations. The more you approach social situations, the more your confidence will grow.
Authentic connections improve your quality of life and your levels of fulfillment. If you feel that you are withdrawing socially, ask yourself why. It’s fine to have quiet times but if they drag on for longer than six weeks there may be underlying issues that need addressing. Enjoy your friendships and remember that you judge yourself far more harshly than others ever will.