The best ways to get close to someone you care about
Deep and meaningful connection is one of the most powerful positive forces in our lives.
by: E.B. Johnson
Modern society is a funny thing. While we are more connected than ever, we are also more fundamentally divided than we have been in centuries. Each second, we are becoming more connected to chaotic shifts around the globe, but we are also growing further apart from the people sitting right next to us. It’s more important than ever to connect with those we love, but it’s never seemed like more of an uphill struggle.
There are many different reasons for this social drift, and the distance we are beginning to feel from the people that we should feel closest to. Some of those reasons we are only starting to understanding, but some are known and familiar. One glaring truth — however — stands out above the rest. We have to learn how to reconnect and reengage with those that matter most, and we have to do it now; for our own mental and physical wellbeing.
Why getting close matters
It’s easy to take life for granted when you’re racing at breakneck speed to get everything done on your to-do list. Life chews us up and spits us out on the other side, feeling exhausted, numb and often terribly, terribly isolated if we we’re not careful. Connecting with the important people in our life is one of the best ways to combat the side-effects of modern day living, but it’s one of the skills we feel least able to master
Any relationship — be it a close friendship, marriage or any other kind of close partnership — takes effort, compromise, and a lot of communicatiton. The benefits of such a relationship are almost countless, however, and one of the best ways you can tap into finding your own mental, physical and emotional peace and wellbeing.
The benefits of bonding
Getting close to others and sharing yourself on an authentic level has a number of surprising benefits, the least of them being an overall boost in confidence and self-esteem. When we get close to others, we allow them to see us as we are, and that has untold benefits for our health and the way we see ourselves in the world around us.
Sense of security
There’s a deep, primal need in many of us to have the safety and security of other human beings around us. This remnant of our distance-pasts harks back to a time when our ancestors relied on safety in numbers, and (in many places and societies) it’s still a sentiment that rings true. We like to have the company of others and the security that’s attached to that. Humans have always been safer in numbers, and getting close to those we care about can provide that sense of security.
Internalizing a better view
When we allow ourselves to love and be loved in return, we also allow ourselves to internalize the positive judgements and assessments of our partners. This is what results in the little self-esteem boost you feel after having a deep conversation, or soul-affirming moment with someone you care about. When we love someone, we allow ourselves (even just from time-to-time) see ourselves for the more compassionate and forgiving eyes of our partners and confidantes.
Physical health boost
While it’s not entirely understood, those who find themselves in close, healthy partnerships generally find that they have better overall physical health. Many doctors chalk this up to the health behavior concordance, or the belief that when one partner is healthy, the other partner follows. Whatever the reason, those who deep, stable relationships have been shown to have fewer doctor’s visits than those without.
Decreased depression and anxiety
It’s no surprise that social isolation contributes to depression and anxiety, so it should therefore come as no surprise that connecting and bonding with others is an aid in combating those conditions. The key is connecting in a safe way, in safe spaces, with people that you know you can trust. Feeling better often starts with opening up, but that’s not always easy when you’re suffering with the darkness of depression and anxiety.
Connection has a number of surprising benefits, and among those is he benefit of elongated life. Research has shown that those in deep, committed and stable relationships with open connections are more like to live longer than those without. These results come off the back of the findings that those of us who learn how to meaningfully connect with others also have lower rates of substance abuse and even lower blood pressure.
How to get close to the people we love.
So what? Just knowing how connection can benefit you isn’t enough. In order to incorporate deep, lasting connections with those you love — you have to put in work. Getting to know someone on a personal level takes time, and it takes opening yourself up in ways that can be unfamiliar or even uncomfortable. Start slowly, and work your way up. Connecting with others is one of the most natural skills we possess. You just have to tap back into it again.
1. Practice a little self-love
It’s hard to open up, love and respect someone when you don’t love and respect yourself. If you really want to get close to another person, you have to spend time getting close to yourself first, coming to understand who you are at your authentic core and what you want from this life. Getting close to the strong, beautiful soul that is at our core is key when getting close to other people. Before you can venture into the waters of their souls, venture into your own by practicing a little self-love and compassion.
Take a second to assess yourself and how you spend your time and your energy. Are you looking for connection, simply so you can meet some personal desire or so that you can check a box off of a list? Figure out where you’re coming from and pay special attention to how you attach yourself to people and where his pattern of attachment comes from.
Practice some radical self-acceptance and start embracing yourself and the struggles you’ve overcome to bring you to this point in your life. Try to view your mistakes and missteps through the lens of someone who cares for you, and try to extend a little of that compassion that they have for you to yourself. Get close to you, and all those ugly bumps, bruises and scrapes that make you the imperfect person that you are today. If you want to get truly close to others, get truly close to yourself first.
2. Ask them questions
In our social media world, it’s easy to get caught up on the bad habit of talking about ourselves. The problem, however, is that it comes at the cost of further isolating us, and pulling us further away from the people that really matter. If you want to get close to someone, start with the simplest method in the book: ask them questions.
Asking questions shows interest, and it’s a stimulating way in which to enrich our own experience. Questions can vary from deep to shallow, but wha’s important is that you ask them and you ask them with no motive other than learning more about the person and what makes them tick.
When you ask someone questions, you express interest in their life. Listen to what they have to say, and actually engage with them using both your eyes and your ears. Truly getting to know someone is more than just knowing some trivia; it’s absorbing what they’re saying, how they’re saying it and even the body language that accompanies it. If you really want to bond with someone, start listening to them, rather than speaking at them.
3. Show up
Our friends and our loved ones count on us for a number of different things both big and small. Whether we think something is major or minor, it’s important to show and be reliable for those we care about. Connection is a lot about getting to know the other person, but it’s also about just being there when you say you will.
The strongest relationships are founded on trust, something that is generated over time and through shared experiences. In order to establish that trust, you have to show up and be reliable, even if it’s not the most convenient thing in the world to do. You have to show your friend or partner that you care about them by giving action to your words, and this most often happens by just being there when you’re supposed to be there.
Showing up for your friend doesn’t mean you have to accept every invitation or be at every social event. It simply means being honest, and making yourself present when it actually counts. Don’t avoid the tough conversations, and don’t be afraid to say no, but do have the ability to put your ego aside from time-to-time. Be there for your friends if you want to get close, and show up when it really counts.
4. Learn how to talk about yourself
Because social media encourages us to inform the world of our most mundane thoughts and acts, we’ve forgotten how to communicate the things that really matter — like any emotion besides anger, and the unpleasant aspects of life that can be difficult or hard to manage. If you truly want to get close to someone, learn how to talk about yourself again and learn how to do it in an honest and insightful way that doesn’t dampen or shut out the light of others.
Learning how to talk about yourself on a deeper and more meaningful level starts with learning how to recognize those things in your life.Spot your feelings for what they are, and let them out through a mindful journaling practice that can help you pinpoint the issues and get better about identifying them. We struggle in our relationships most often because we’re struggling within. If you want to learn how to talk about yourself constructively, learn how to recognize the constructive topics and forces in your life.
Stop focusing on what others think of you, and stop fixating on finding the perfect way to present yourself. Pick out your emotions for what they are, and identify what it is you need in order to connect with the purest and most authentic form of your joy. If you feel judged, criticized or otherwise discountted for sharing yourself in any way — it’s a critical red flag that you’re getting too close to the wrong people.
5. Accept, accept, accept
Getting close to other people takes a lot of things, but it takes acceptance before and after everything else. Just because we love someone doesn’t mean they are perfect, and just because someone is a close friend does not mean they won’t slip up from time to time. Digging into the meat of who someone is means finding things that don’t always sit well. If you truly want to open up to someone and you really want them to be able to open up to you, you have to accept these things, and accept who the person is today because of it.
True partnership is like any relationship in that it takes open and honest acceptance in order to thrive. As humans, we are imperfect creatures struggling against our own hubris to make something of ourselves. We all stumble and fall. The greatest gift we can give to ourselves and those we care about is accepting that truth and extending our natural compassion to them when and where we can.
Likewise, accept the truth of other people’s actions. Believe them, when they show you through their deeds, that they don’t value your time, your effort or your energy. Notice if you have to be excessively thoughtful around them and take notice if you’re compromising more of yourself than you should be. Partnerships are a give and take, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept abuse or dismissal. Accept what you can’t change and let actions speak louder than words. After all, words are wind.
BONUS: Drop people who make you feel invisible
Those who make you feel less-than or discounted are not people with whom you should be sharing your confidences, let alone the deepest parts of your being. If you’ve found yourself getting close to someone who dismisses your feelings, ideas or points of views, or if you’ve found yourself reaching out to someone who doesn’t seem to care what’s going on in your life — run, don’t walk, the other way.
Get rid of people who make you feel invisible and the people who make you feel as though your time and personage is somehow less valuable than their own. Likewise, reconsider those who only see you as a commodity, or as a piece of the puzzle they’ve worked out for their own ends.
Life is entirely too short to spend it engaging with those who do not challenge us to be better, who cannot be there for you (alongside themselves) even when it asks everything; or nothing at all. Look for those who ask you questions, who inquire into the state of your life. These are the people worth getting close to, but they’re not always the people that we expect. You’ve got to drop the people who make you feel invisible in order to leave room for those who can help you to grow.
Putting it all together…
It’s easy to lose touch with the people that we care about in this increasingly digital world. Though we seem more connected than ever, the divisions that keep us feeling lonely are stronger than ever and they show no signs of stopping. If you want to tap back into that authentic sense of joy and happiness again, you can start by getting close with the people who really matter — a process that takes time, commitment and a huge dose of radical self-accepttance.
Spend some time getting to know yourself first before you reach out to anyone else. Learn how to identify your emotions and the things that inspire you, and do it in a way that allows you to expand the compassion you have for others. Getting close to other people is good for our health and our wellbeing, but we have to put ourselves out there, ask questions and show up when it matters. Drop the people who make you feel invisible and learn how to talk about yourself while accepting both yourself and others for who and what they are. We’re all doing the best we can to make it through this thing called life. Why not sweeten the deal by getting through it together?