We have a longing desire to create meaningful human connections. These interactions bring us immense fulfilment and happiness. However, many of us find it hard to form genuine connections with people, perhaps due to our busy lifestyles, past experiences or social anxiety. So we settle for relationships that merely scour the surface. For a while, it’s okay; we’re having fun and that’s all that matters. But overtime, we feel discontent because our heart still desires a more genuine connection.
I want to share with everyone some of my strategies to create meaningful and honest connections. They involve being mindful of the relationships we engage ourselves in while still opening our hearts to the world.
1. Be Yourself
When we try to form a connection with someone for the very first time, we often try to present ourselves in a certain way. We want to appear smart, funny, interesting and accomplished. We hide our flaws or imperfections because revealing them means we’re vulnerable or at risk of being embarrassed or hurt. Sometimes we even project our insecurities and create a facade of who we ideally want to be. Although it’s scary and intimidating, the last thing we want to do is create a false impression of ourselves to other people. The relationship will be built upon an exterior and no deep connections will be made. This is even more true when we interact with someone we like. However, when we show people who we truly are, the ability to form more genuine connections is endless. In most cases, our vulnerability will be matched with theirs. The relationship will be built upon trust rather than pretense.
2. Make Time
When a connection is genuine and honest, there is never not enough time to hang out. Each party will take it upon themselves to value and prioritise the relationship because it means that much to them. I’m sure many of us can relate: it’s so natural and easy to organise a catch up with someone we genuinely care for, yet it does take some time and planning to meet up with those who we don’t know as well. But this also requires kindness. When time isn’t reciprocated, rather than jumping to conclusions, its best to be compassionate and overtime, evaluate. The quality of time spent together also matters. I have a friend who I see once a year but our connection is so deep-rooted that we don’t mind the infrequency.
3. But Space Them Out
This might be the introvert in me talking but I find catch ups much more meaningful when I space my catch-ups out. To me, this means meeting up on a day when I’m quite free so there is no need to rush to or from the connection. It also means that I space my catch-ups with different people across the week or month. This way, I can give my undivided attention without the distraction creeping in from other aspects of my life. I’m also able to reflect on the development of the friendship in the days after.
4. Random Connections
Sometimes we create the most meaningful connections when they’re random. It’s common to shy away from the mere mention of random connections because it involves putting ourselves out there. While joining new hobby groups or hanging out with a different social circle is a great way to interact with others, it doesn’t have to be only that. Being open to random interactions such as saying hi when we walk by someone, talking to the barista or giving someone in line behind us a smile are opportunities to create connections which may eventually lead to a relationship. There’s science to suggest that this improves our happiness too.
5. Be Open
Openness is the most important thing to have when trying to create more genuine connections. As the first point, being open about who we are is important. Then as much as we are hoping for people to accept who we are, we also need to be open about them too. Being open about who they are and especially who they are now, if we knew of them beforehand. It’s easy to place expectations upon them and box them into a container of who we want them to be. However, we’re now losing the purpose of trying to make legitimate relationships. Furthermore, when we meet someone, being open about the encounter will bring in more positive experiences for everyone. Even if the initial interactions are somewhat discouraging, be open to what will happen next. Let the kindling happen naturally as personalities, values, experiences, stories are laid bare. We might connect over something we didn’t even know about ourselves!
In the practice of mindfulness and self-awareness, we should reflect on our connections. It’s much more fulfilling to have quality, deep connections within our few relationships than to have many friends but they merely scratch the surface. To do this, it’s important to have integrity and know what we value in life. For me, when I feel intimidated or unable to express who I truly am in the friendship, it’s a sign that the connection wasn’t deep, suggesting I might need to try again or perhaps (with no mean intent) put my energy elsewhere. The reflection should also be made with compassion and without judgement. This means to accept people for who they are, accept us for who we are and accepting that our stories were meant to or never meant to intertwine.
I’ve designed and included a free worksheet for you to use if you ever wanted to take the next step in creating more meaningful connections! The worksheet helps you reflect and become more self-aware of who you are so that you can purposefully weave through the billions of potential connections to find one that brings great value into your life.