You don't have to power through life alone. Open yourself to others and experience the true rewards of connection. Here's how.
Life’s biggest lessons, opportunities, and gifts are found in your connections with others. It’s easy to think you have it all together when you’re flying solo through the carnival of life. Relationships require work—you’re called to practice the art of giving and receiving. Yet it’s through your connections to other people that you find the biggest rewards. Deepen your relationships with friends, family, your partner, peers, and coworkers using these tips.
Smiling at another person is one of the simplest ways to connect with them, and it only takes a second. Whether it’s a bright, cheerful smile offered to a perfect stranger in passing, or a tender smile toward a close friend or loved one, this is an easy way to deepen your connection. You never know when a heartfelt smile will come at just the right time and have the positive effect that person may need.
2. Make Eye Contact
Whether you’re passing by a stranger or engaging with a friend, make eye contact. It’s another simple and powerful way to connect on a deeper level. It’s been said that the eyes are the gateway to the soul. Many people in today’s busy world feel unseen and under appreciated. When you make eye contact and choose to be completely present with other people, it cultivates a level of trust and safety that allows them to open up even more.
3. Schedule Quality Time
In today’s world, there’s a bigger emphasis on running around and getting things done than there is on making time to connect with others. Take a look at your weekly calendar and schedule a date night with your partner, a lunch or activity with a friend, and some quiet time for yourself to simply be still and reflect. You may be surprised at how making time to connect with others shifts the quality of your relationships. You may also feel the shift in how you relate with others as a result of carving out time to be with yourself.
4. Listen With Your Heart
Pay attention to how you listen to others. Perhaps you hear them speak but you don’t really listen to what they say. While you listen, are you already formulating your response? Do you have a tendency to finish their sentences or to interrupt them with your own experiences? Are you listening to your own internal dialogue and making assumptions or judgments about the other person? When you can listen from your heart rather than your head, you’re able to be present while someone else shares. When you feel heard—really heard—by another, it deepens your level of trust and connection with them.
5. Actively Love
The art of actively loving happens when you turn love into a verb instead of simply viewing it as a state. Practice doing things for—and with—people that demonstrate you love them. Offer your loved one a foot rub, make someone a nourishing meal, practice random acts of kindness to strangers, make someone laugh, offer a helping hand, or be there for someone who just needs a shoulder. Loving gestures are far more powerful than any purchased gifts, so see where you can tap into your creativity to show someone how much you care for them. At the very least, express things that come from a loving place. It’s said that people won’t remember anything you say but they will remember the way you acted with and toward them.
6. Communicate Consciously
Relationships require open, compassionate, and conscious communication. Effective communication asks that you show up in the conversation without engaging in melodrama or blaming others or yourself. Instead employ heartfelt, open dialogue between parties. When you can share how you feel about something, while requesting help from that person to meet your needs, it provides both sides with an opportunity to practice mindful communication.
7. Dig Deeper
Through doing your own personal development work, you come to know and understand yourself at a deeper level. As this journey unfolds, you inevitably learn more about those who play a role in your life experiences. You can explore where your beliefs and behaviors were first imprinted if you place attention on your emotions as they rise up to the surface in challenging situations. When you can recognize that your old patterns and beliefs no longer support you, you have an opportunity to perceive, and live, life differently. This type of realization allows you to see that others are also doing their best from their level of awareness in this moment and from this perspective. Knowing this makes it easier to let go of grievances.
8. Be Present and Focused on the Other
When was the last time someone asked you about you? Ask people about their lives, their families, their hobbies, goals, and visions. Then, really listen to what they have to say. Spend time relating with them through body language, facial expressions, and your overall quality of presence. Be there with them in that moment. Refrain from checking your phone, glancing at passersby, and other mindless distractions. How you interact directly with others affects the energy of the relationship. When you give your full attention to the person you’re with it enhances your connection.
9. Establish Go’s and No-Go’s
Everyone has things that work for them and things that don’t. Another profound way to connect with others is to dip below the surface and explore the deeper level conversations that reveal other people’s likes and dislikes. Everyone has things that they need in certain relationships and boundaries that, when crossed, have the potential to compromise friendships, destroy family ties, and disintegrate working relationships. Ask people what’s important to them and what things would cause them to reconsider being in a relationship with you, and vice versa.
10. Be Authentic
Another profound way to connect with others is to be authentically you. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in any relationship is to masquerade as someone or something other than who you truly are. Practicing authenticity means being vulnerable. Share yourself with those you care about, and provide the safety for those you care about to share themselves with you. When life gives you lemons, use it as an opportunity to learn from and connect with others. When life is on the incline and everything is amazing, share that in a way that promotes inspiration and motivation for others.