Understanding what a true human connection is can be tough. Often, we don’t know we have one until we realize that we don’t have it with someone anymore.
In this article, I want to look at what connections are, the basic tools for building them, and how we can use those skills to save our current relationships.
Establishing connections with others is more than a nice thing; it’s at the core of our mental and physical health. We’ve all heard the statistics. People who are married live longer. People who live alone are more likely to developmental disorders.
Some experts even attribute the power of human connections to the success of the human race. It was those functions that allowed us to survive without claws, big teeth, or massive strength.
Defining the undefinable
What is a true human connection? That’s a tough thing to define. Like art and love, you might not be able to find words, but you know it when you see it.
A connection is a sense that both parties to the relationship have that there is a closeness in their relationship. Sometimes, it feels spontaneous, like meeting a man on a train and finding yourself married to him 12 years later. Other times, it’s a connection that started one way, as a passing friendship but developed further as the years went on. Sometimes, a true, intimate connection grew from what seemed like a desert. It pops up with someone that had been around for years whom you had had no real intimate feelings before.
The dictionary defines connection as “the act or state of being connected.” Well, that doesn’t help! To connect is defined as “to join, link, or fasten together.”
One of the examples of a connection that I love is a connecting train or plane. This type of connection is a change in direction from the way you were headed before.
If I had to define a connection, it’s a sense of intimacy and closeness between two people that enrich lives and provides a support structure for both parties.
Why bother making connections?
As anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows, connections are work.
Think about that first love or even the tenth where the sense of connection was strong and then it began to fade. Maintaining it was work. You needed to focus on it and feed it and water it, just like a plant. That love might not still be around because that connection was lost.
Human connections give us strength. The person or persons that were connected to support us, watch over us and make us stronger.
Think about how it would have been for early man. They gathered in a cave or a hut and they needed to truly trust the people that they were with. If they dozed off, they needed to know that the other people, the ones who were awake, wouldn’t let them get attacked by animals or killed by human enemies.
The idea of strength in numbers is built on connections. The connection might be a commitment to an ideal, such a revolution or a humanitarian initiative. It might be built around a sense of love, like a family or a couple. It’s often built on a web of friendship and affection that allows a group of people to come together and work for their mutual benefit.
A sense of belonging is important to humans. We all have a need to feel like “a part of something.” This sense of belonging comes from the various connections that we develop within a group. If we’re simply there, without a function or a purpose, we might feel that we don’t really belong. From the youngest person in a group to the oldest, and including people with disabilities, there is a need have a function that creates a sense of belonging.
Like a cave dweller, connections bring us inner peace. When we feel that have the love, safety, and belonging that we need, there’s a sense of inner peace. We fell that we can stop seeking and start simply living.
A note about other types of connection
There are other connections that can give our lives meaning and bring us peace.
A connection to a higher power, either through organized religions or our own path, can be one of the strongest connections that some people make.
Many people have a connection to arts, like movies, books, and more that gives them many of the same feelings that one gets from human connections.
There are lots of great ways to make connections and just as many guides to helping you make those connections.
I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t value spiritual and material connections. They are very important too. As we explore the power of human connections, these other connections are a place that one can gain strength and power as well.
How to get started
How do we make a connection?
There are lots of opinions on how to make connections, but there is a common thread in them, namely that you have to want to make a connection.
I teach people a simple four-step process to get started:
- Trust yourself – You have to believe that you can make a connection. You need to believe that you’re worthy of a human connection. Many people don’t, too many. Everyone is worthy of a human connection. In fact, the less “likable” you are, the more baggage you have, the more you need human connections. Trust that you’re worthy and that you can handle it. It might even be awkward, but a connection is that answer to a lot of life’s worries and frets.
- Read the person – Take the time to observe the signals that the person is putting off. If they seem receptive, then they feel a connection as well. If they aren’t seeming receptive, it might simply be that they have felt an opening yet. Most of human communication is nonverbal. Look for those cues that tell you how you can move forward and increase the connection.
- Understand – Ask for more information, more contact, more about the other person. There are few things that people like to talk about more than themselves, even if they pretend that they don’t. Be involved in the conversation and ask lots of questions. Let the other person open up to you.
- Express your understanding – Letting someone know that you understand what they’re saying and why it’s important to them and you is vital. There is the canned response, “It sounds like you’re saying, XYZ. Is that right?” That sounds like a counselor and you’re really trying to connect with someone as a person, not a patient. You can say the same thing with something like, “I think it’s cool that you said, XYZ. I never thought of it that way.
Making connections with those around us
Making connections isn’t only about new people that we meet. In fact, more importantly, are the relationships that we already have. We need the strong connections that we can forge with those with whom already have relationships. Often, our lives built around these relationships. Spouses, children, coworkers, bosses, and parents are those people that we most need close connections with.
What is reconnecting?
Reconnecting is reforming the connections that you have with someone. It can be a way to hit the reset button. Remember: If you have a long history of not connecting well, it can take time for the other person to be willing to allow themselves to reconnect.
You can use that same steps above to reconnect with someone that you love or have a relationship with that you can use to start a new relationship. Trust yourself, read the person, ask for more information, and express your understanding of what they’ve said.
If you’ve had a hard time in your relationship, it might take a while for the other person to open. It will also take you time to get your skills to the point where you can consistently show you’re caring and compassion.
Connecting to Save Your Marriage
Saving your marriage/relationship is one of the most important things you can do. Separation and divorce are painful, even if you think that the marriage should end.
One of the most important ways to make that reconnection is to be as open to the other person as you want them to be with you.
This is one of the most powerful ways to push the reset button on your marriage. As I said above, it can take time to the other person’s trust. This is especially true in a marriage where there has been a long erosion of trust.
Most spouses want to reconnect, even if they don’t think so. It’s rarely too late.
Connecting at Work
Making connections at work can make business easier and make your workplace much more pleasant.
When working with someone, you can use this connection approach to forge a new relationship with someone, even your boss.
Keeping your Connections Strong
Human connections are fragile. One of the things that has happened more recently in the world is that we have replaced personal contact with social media and emails. These might be ways to “touch base” they rarely create actual connections.
The only really strong way to keep the connection alive and strong is to keep in contact with those people whose relationship means something. Personal contact is best, but even a phone call is better than an emoji on Facebook.
Going from “Working on It” to “This is Normal”
There will be a transition time that you will need to re-learn to make these connections. There are skills that many of us learned as kids that we forget as we get older.
When we were younger, we instantly connect with other kids. We remember the other person’s name for a few days. They’re our best friend in minutes. We listen to everything they say.
As we grow older, we forget to make that connection at all. We’re cautious about making friends and we don’t listen to what someone else says nearly as much as we used to. In fact, often we’re thinking about our own stuff and trying to think about what’s going to happen next. We’ve been burned and we don’t want to get close to anyone who might hurt our feelings again.
In order to really reclaim the full and authentic relationships we had when we were younger, we need to relearn the skill of making our mind all the other person’s.
Our blogs on making a connection
This is just a preview of some of our other blogs that deal with specific situations in which we need to work on developing better connections.
“Truly Connecting with High-Speed Internet” – We have a lot of “friends” on Facebook and Twitter, but none of them are really as close as those few people we’ve known all our lives. There are a few things that we can do to connect with people even through social media.
“Using Connection Skills to Save a Marriage” – The most important relationship in your life is your partner. If that relationship isn’t working, there’s a good chance nothing else is working either. Learn to use some of the skills we’ve talked about here and a few more to work on your marriage.
“Connection Skills for He-Men” – Men don’t know how to open up well. Or more precisely, they don’t know how to do it without feeling like they’ve somehow compromised their manhood. It can be done and it can be done while keeping your man-card in your wallet.
“Dragging it Out of Him – A Woman’s Guide to Connecting with a Tough Guy” – Getting a he-man to open up is tough. Sometimes, it takes thinking like a man to get a man to open to making those connections.