But knowing how to create a valuable bond with the people most important to us is key to having rewarding relationships and a happier life. So how do we move beyond the superficial and form connections that add meaning to our lives?
It starts with you
When it comes to the relationships we have in our lives, the one we have with ourselves is the most important. We all know the saying ‘treat others how you want to be treated’. If you don’t love and respect yourself, you’ll tend to project that negativity outwards into your relationships as well. People who are happy with themselves are naturally more accepting, compassionate and loving in their relationships because they feel less vulnerable and truly believe they are deserving of a friend or partner’s love. When you work on developing your self-esteem, you’ll see the result in your connections, too.
Learn the art of good communication
You don’t have to be a comedian or a genius to have great conversations. Creating meaningful connections through communication is a two-way street and not just about saying all the right things, being forever witty or impressing the other person.
Listening properly and responding thoughtfully show a genuine interest and respect for the other person. Hear what someone else is saying and tailor your conversation around an understanding of how they communicate. In return you should expect the same from them. And remember to be aware of how you communicate non-verbally as well. Glancing at your phone instead of making proper eye contact sends the wrong message.
Part of having a connection with someone is based on sharing your emotional experiences. This means you need to be open to sharing stories about your life as well as asking others about theirs. Showing that you trust someone enough to let them into your life, and that you in turn can be trusted with their emotions, helps you to strengthen those bonds. Opening up also allows you to find common ground with people so that you can create your own experiences together.
Accept and empathise
You don’t always have to agree with a friend’s point of view or opinion on something, but learning to accept how they feel and empathise with them will go a long way in forming a stronger connection. Try to think through other peoples’ situations completely, and consider where they are coming from and why they might think or act in a particular way. Making the effort to understand someone’s motivations and accept them for who they are will often be returned with the same effort.
Be an optimist
We can’t all be happy 24 hours a day and a meaningful friendship is about sharing the ups as well as the downs. But there’s a difference between being happy and being optimistic. Learning to be positive about your life not only allows you to view the world more optimistically, but you will draw people to you with your confident and affirming approach. Try to think about always leaving something positive behind in any interaction with someone.
It’s all about giving
Going tit for tat doesn’t work in any kind of relationship. If you’re only motivated by what your can get out of a relationship then more than likely you’re not giving a whole lot to the other person. Don’t keep count of good deeds. If you both focus on what you can bring to the relationship, rather than what you are getting from it, everyone wins.
Put in the time
We live in a time-poor society, which makes it difficult – and therefore all the more important – to put time into our relationships. A meaningful connection can’t be made over a quick coffee break or one-off dinner. You need to share a range of experiences as well as have downtime together to get to know each other in different contexts – and that takes time. Prioritise your relationships and you’ll be rewarded for your effort.