Making Genuine Connections: The Antidote to Loneliness

The world continues to evolve to meet the challenges associated with public health crises, physical distancing and moving towards a “new normal.” It’s important for leaders, Family members, and friends to check-in with each other and ensure that even though we are physically distancing, we are still connected.

Our thinking patterns can also have a big impact on those around us—whether it’s our friends or coworkers, or our Family members, kids or those we lead. Thinking patterns are usually learned from those around us by our early teens.

The Dangers of Loneliness

Loneliness is subjective – there is a difference between physically being isolated and feeling isolated. In fact, research shows that feeling isolated can do more physical damage than actual isolation. According to a recent survey, more than half of Americans consider themselves to be lonely. That means many of us haven’t been creating genuine, close connections with people that we can share troubles, struggles and successes with. Unfortunately, we tend to underestimate the loneliness of other people and stigma prevents us from talking about it.

Being “Social”

Physical distancing does not have to mean that we are socially isolated. Being social can lower stress, boost endorphins and increase oxytocin (often called the ‘love drug’ that promotes feelings of love, bonding and well-being). Physical distancing is an added barrier to being social; however, there are simple strategies we can try to increase the quality and quantity of our interactions.

Increase the Quantity of Your Interactions

  • Make small changes: Piggyback on existing habits you have to make it easier to find the time to reach out. For example, if you already go to the grocery store, try to talk to one person at the store or ask one question of someone while you’re there.
  • Follow through: When you have the urge to text or message someone, count down from five to help you follow through on sending the message.
  • Connect to the community: In addition to romantic relationships and friendships, there is a sense of connection we experience, even with strangers, that’s very valuable and makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger. Reach out to a neighbor or sit outside to be around your community.

Increase the Quality of Your Interactions

1. Listen with purpose

  • Make time: Schedule a time and create the space to have a conversation.
  • Really listen: Be present, seek understanding.
  • Respond with the speaker in mind: Ask questions for the speaker to elaborate instead of providing your opinion (unless asked for your opinion).

2. Talk about yourself

People who are lonely tend not to talk about themselves. If you want to take your relationship to the next level and build a more genuine connection, tell stories about yourself and talk about what you like and think.

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