Strong, deep, and meaningful human connection is the most priceless component of our lives. We all have a need for connection, but oftentimes our deeply held beliefs, thoughts, and expectations can hinder our ability to connect deeply with others.
Many of us confuse loving someone with loving the idea of them or sometimes put requirements or terms on loving them by expecting them to be a certain way, based on things such as their status, looks, career/ income, etc… It is important to let people just be, and love them as they truly are, rather than what they could be, what you want them to be, or what they can do for you.
A caveat to meaningful relationships is that a relationship is only as strong as the least committed partner.
In the spirit of the month of love, I have compiled a list of five ways to forge more meaningful connections with the people in your life so you can live your richest, most fulfilling life.
1. Be present when spending time with people
In today’s world, there are more distractions than ever before and we often forget that we have to actively resist distractions and be intentional about living in the present moment.
Increase the quality of the time you spend with loved ones by avoiding looking at your phone or other technology and doing something that you both bond over and can be fully present for.
If you find yourself competing with your partner’s phone, video games, or television pastime, they aren’t being present for you.
2. Become a better communicator
If your intention is to connect deeply with a loved one but they cannot or will not listen, the ability for the two of you to connect is going to be greatly diminished.
Effective communication has two essential components: listening to understand and speaking to be understood.
You could have the cure to cancer but if you cannot share your message in a way that creates buy-in, then it isn’t going to have the impact you want. We tend to assume that the person who is speaking is the one in control, but it is actually the person who is listening who has the power. If they aren’t listening to what you have to say, then your words don’t have the intended power or ability to persuade.
The best way to become a highly effective communicator is to address your weaknesses, reframe your thoughts and beliefs, then practice communicating in your everyday life. Whether you struggle with listening intently or with putting your thoughts into words, you can improve your skills by first reshaping your views on conversations to see them as opportunities for growth rather than mundane parts of daily life.
Then, practice communicating with others. Listen intently and show your genuine interest in what people are saying. Stay in the present moment by listening rather than thinking about what you are going to reply… focus and hang on to each word the other person is saying so you can understand them to the best of your ability, which helps build connection and trust.
Allow yourself time to organize your thoughts before trying to explain them to others… If you don’t fully understand what you are trying to say, how can you expect anyone else to?
Then, speak as clearly and concisely as possible. Rather than beating around the bush, be straightforward and get your point across in as few words as you can. The clearer and more focused your wording is, the easier it will be for the listener to understand.
3. Allow yourself to open up and be vulnerable
One of the main issues that holds people back from creating deeper and more meaningful relationships is the fear of being vulnerable, which is ultimately the fear of rejection.
The Fear of Rejection, as well as the Need for Connection, are two of the Four Core Universal Reasons People Suffer.
If you have a fear of rejection, you likely have a harder time opening up to others and sharing the more private aspects of your life. You may want to share these things with others so you can connect with and relate to them, but because of your deeply held fear of rejection, the thought of people not liking the real you is paralyzing. When you factor in the basic human need for connection, the idea of being disconnected from others can unintentionally leave you avoiding close relationships altogether, which is the exact opposite of what you want.
Realistically, most people will not judge you as harshly as you judge yourself. However, if someone is going to judge you based on who you are, that person hasn’t earned the right to your vulnerability. There are people out there who will love you for you, and they are waiting for you to reveal yourself so that they can find you.
A powerful quote I read recently was, “Don’t hold yourself back from speaking your truth… Someone out there may need to hear what you have to say.”
However, if you find yourself afraid to be vulnerable because you feel that your privacy will be violated, that you will be mocked for it, or it will be used against you during an argument for example, then being vulnerable isn’t in your best interest.
If you have a deep-seated fear of rejection, whether it is subconscious or conscious, you must address it directly and reframe the negative thoughts and beliefs that manifested as a result of your fear. Until you become aware of and address your subconscious thoughts, beliefs, expectations, and interpretations of past experiences, they will continue to affect your behaviors and therefore your relationships.
I like to say, “It’s what you don’t know that you don’t know that runs the show,” so if you are experiencing issues in your relationships with others or yourself, you must first become aware of and then reframe those thoughts and beliefs in order to overcome them and find peace, freedom, and love.
4. Be patient
Strong connections take time. Everyone opens up at their own pace, and showing patience demonstrates that you care about getting to know this person and that you aren’t pushing them to move faster than they are comfortable with.
Practice patience and you will feel just how rewarding it is to truly be there for someone, love them, and create a long-lasting, beautiful relationship with them that allows both people to feel authentic, free, and at peace.
There is a difference between patience and waiting for someone to change who has no intention of doing so. All too often, we (particularly women), feel like we can fix things, fix someone, or make excuses. Be sure not to use “trying” as your measurement of change… Measurable behavior changes are what matter and what build connections.
5. Ditch the preconceived notions you have about what it means to love and be loved
Since childhood, retail companies, the entertainment industry, our families, mainstream media, and society as a whole have been trying to shape and contort our views on love. They put limitations and conditions on love, when true love is pure and infinite.
In order to create deeper, more meaningful relationships with family, friends, and strangers, the best tip I can give you is to just love them. Understand, empower (which is different than enabling), and express your love to those around you and it will surely come back to you.
Keep in mind that people have different ways of expressing love. The author of The Five Love Languages Gary Chapman explains how the five ways people prefer to give or receive love are through words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, acts of service, and gift giving. It’s important to know the ways your partner or other loved one best gives love and receives love so you are aware of how to love them and recognize how they love you.
In addition, romantic love evolves. For example, in the early years of a relationship you might feel the love through flowers and a spontaneous dinner out, but five years into a relationship, love might feel like your partner washing the car or single handedly managing the kids so you can have a girls getaway.
Accept the love you receive from others. People may not love you exactly how you want or need them to, but life is too short to put parameters and expectations on love. Accept the fact that others love you and want the best for you, and that they love you the best way they know how.
Read our latest blog, Is It Enough Love?, to read more in depth about how society disturbs our views on giving and receiving love and how you can begin to approach life with the intention of giving unconditional love.