Why Connecting with Others is Vital
In this age of independence, where we are proud we didn’t have to go to the mall or a big box store to do any of our holiday shopping, we don’t realize we are missing out on connecting with others, not only for our good but also for theirs. Bonding with others is vital for us as social beings — made for this connection through the wiring of the human brain, as a way to keep us healthy and happy.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs shows that our need to belong is secondary only to our survival needs. Initially associated with survival, being with others, increased our ability to endure. If we were with others, then we had a better chance of a successful hunt and thus eating, as well as staying off wild animals and other things that may harm us. Forming small groups help us stay alive. This togetherness kept us safe and, therefore, happy.
In today’s society, the bonding with others is still vital, not necessarily for our survival, but for us to thrive in life, to be healthy and happy. Why? Our relationship with others allows us to feel fulfilled, brings us joy, and helps us deal with the stresses of life. Studies have shown that lonely people are more likely to become ill, and their mortality rate increases dramatically compared to those that connect to others.
I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship. ~ Brené Brown
What is Connection with Others?
Let’s first look at what it means to connect to another person. This bonding is about a sense of being open and accessible to another person as well as feeling that they are vulnerable and available to you. Both of the participants are showing empathy and compassion for the other, and it’s a positive experience for both parties.
We all know when we’ve bonded with another person. We look forward to spending time with one another. There is warmth and joy felt during the time we’re together. Time seems to stand-still as you are both engrossed in the conversation or the activity you’re sharing.
A real bond, however, is more than just speaking to one another or having a common interest. A genuine connection involves our ability to be vulnerable and share our true selves as well as being fully present and mindful. Only then can we begin to build the trust with another for the ties to be made.
Saying hello to the cashier as you are checking out at the grocery store is not a connection; it’s kindness to a fellow human being. Yes, consideration to others is necessary, but making a bond starts by saying hello to the person by name. Letting them know you hope they are having a good day, asking about their family. Over time, seeing them becomes a tie that can be uplifting to both parties.
We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep. ~ William James
Requirements to Authentically Connect with Others
Four things need to occur for you to connect with others authentically. First item required is that you must be fully present. You need to be mindful and aware of the moment you are sharing with another. Nothing is distracting you from being with one another. This act of being fully present in the moment is why you feel time stands still.
The second item required for connection is being your authentic self. You must be vulnerable and allow the other person to interact with your true self, just as you want them to be their true authentic selves with you. Only when we are vulnerable with one other can we build a real bond.
Thirdly we need to have empathy and compassion for our fellow human beings. When our heart hurts for another, when we wish we could take away their pain, we are empathic. Through this act of understanding, are we able to reach out with kindness and concern, which then causes us to take actions that can help the other overcome their obstacle.
Finally, with time, and through using the three building techniques above, can we learn to trust one another. Trust is the final element needed in genuinely connecting with others. For some of us, this is the most difficult one to establish. Due to our past traumas, building trust with another takes risks on our part, but most of the time, the rewards are a loving relationship.
Happiness is only real when shared. ~ Chris McCandless
Being with Others Doesn’t Mean We are Connecting
People surround you, and you are joking around and making them laugh, this doesn’t mean you are bonding to them. If you are working at being the center of attention or making others laugh, then you aren’t making a genuine link with that person. If you are working or trying to manipulate, what you are doing is not being authentic, and therefore, you’re not making a genuine tie.
If you think you are making connections over a shared interest in despising something, you may not be relating authentically. Remember, a tie to another is a positive feeling, so if you are stirring up negative emotions for a mutual dislike, you’re not going to be building trust, which is the final requirement for bonding.
What about the family? Just because you are family doesn’t mean you are linked, other than by genetics or marriage. We all have close relatives that we know we aren’t connected, but there are other distant relatives that we do feel linked. Why? What makes us bond with some relatives and not with another is based on the four requirements for making a connection.
If you don’t trust yourself, then you have a hard time believing others, and therefore, you have difficulties building relationships with others. Trusting yourself, having confidence in your ability to form lasting ties is vital in your ability to be vulnerable and make lasting bonds to others.
We hunger for connection but take pride in being distant. ~ Turcois Ominek
Examples of Authentic Connections with Others
When we are helping another or another is helping us, it’s an example of a genuine connection with another person. The ability to aid another person is a sign of empathy and compassion, especially when nothing is given in return. It’s showing and receiving sincere gratitude from one another.
Emotional support during a trying time is another example of an authentic bond, a personal conversation with another, and feel the other is listening to you, and you are understood. When you’re feeling empathy and compassion for the one suffering, you are making a real connection. Whether it’s through providing advice or another perspective, emotional support allows us to deal with stress healthily.
Giving another person validation of their accomplishment, of how they feel, or of them just being their authentic self is the best way of linking to others. Validation is another term for belonging which discussed in the hierarchy of needs. Catching someone’s eye, and both people smile.
A positive, shared experience involves enjoyment, and generosity is what bonds us to others, not arguing over a sports team even if you both like sports. The connection comes with positive feelings and goodwill towards one another.
I love those connections that make this big old world feel like a little village. ~ Gina Bellman
Do you have Human Connections in Your Life?
To determine if you have enough authentic connections to be fulfilled and happy, we need to examine the support system we have in our lives. Do you have people with whom you feel comfortable being your true self? Do you have friends or family you trust that you could tell them anything and still be supported? Are there people in your life that validate you and take your concerns seriously? Do you have people that can help you solves problems and issues that arise in your life? Are the people in your life making you feel valued and loved?
If you answered yes to these queries, then you are blessed to have the vital human bonds to be fulfilled and happy. If you were unable to answer yes to all of the questions, let’s look at what ways you can alter the situation.
You can start by making new friends by joining a group in which you have an interest. This group could be a book club or a writing class where you are to interact with the other members. You could volunteer in a shelter as building bonds occur when working together, plus the benefit of helping others. You need to reach out to others. Start small as you build your confidence and take risks by moving out of your comfort zone- you may find a good friend in the process.
When you understand that being connected to others is one of life’s greatest joys, you realize that life’s best comes when you initiate and invest in solid relationships. ~ John C. Maxwell
Strengthening the Connections you have
We can all make our relationships better with a few changes in how we interact with one another. First thing to do is to put away your cell phone, which is a complete distraction when you are trying to connect to another person authentically. You cannot be fully present with one another if you are looking at your phone. Put it away.
Learn to listen well. Listening is the act of mindfully hearing what another person is saying to you. To listen actively means you are giving all of yourself to the communication process. You are hearing what is being said and not thinking about a response. An excellent way for you to be confident that you understood what the speaker was communicating is to summarize what you heard, so there is no confusion.
Communicate authentically with honesty and kindness means you have to be specific in your communication. Others cannot read your mind, so you must be clear about what you are conveying. Ask for specific help. Clearly express your appreciation and gratitude for the relationship you have. Reciprocate the respect and support you feel from the other person.
Learn to set clear boundaries with others; this way, no one can take advantage of you. Personal boundaries are the guidelines or limits we create to identify reasonable, safe, and permissible ways for other people to behave towards us. Also, it is about how we respond when someone steps over those boundaries and the consequences of their actions we impose.
Communication is merely an exchange of information, but connection is an exchange of our humanity. ~ Sean Stephenson
Can one make authentic connections virtually? Many people are their true selves when they aren’t face to face with another person since there is less fear of being vulnerable. So, I think making bonds virtually is possible. I also believe you can maintain associations with others through technology once a real relationship is established.
But only when people are face to face can you see if these virtual relationships have withstood the four requirements to connect with another authentically. Face to face interactions is where we can see if the bond with this person is one that fulfills us, brings joy into our lives, and supports us when we are struggling and if we can reciprocate to benefit the other.
Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. ~ Martin Luther King Jr
As you decide to make genuine connections with others and become conscious about your mindset, you can alter the course of your life.