If you feel like you’ve got nothing in common with people around you, ironically, that is one of the very things that you probably do have in common with most people.
If you struggle to find meaningful connections or constantly feel like an outsider, you are not alone.
In fact, a survey of 20,000 Americans found 54% of people reported feeling like no one understands them or knows them well.
I actually believe that having things in common with others or “fitting in” is dramatically overrated and not nearly as important as we might think when creating quality relationships.
So whilst this article will offer practical steps you can take to help meet more like-minded people, I’m also going to try and convince you why you can still feel deeply loved and socially thrive, even if you’re totally different from everybody else.
Why don’t I fit in with other people?
I’ve had a pretty deep-rooted fear of being disliked for much of my life.
It’s certainly not 100% paranoia either. I’ve often questioned whether I am a more difficult person to like.
That’s because I know I’m not the most agreeable of types. I often struggle with small talk and I’ve always had lots of thoughts and opinions which I all too freely share.
Keeping things to myself to win the popularity vote has never been my strong point, even though I’ve on more than one occasion wished it was.
I’ve often looked enviously at those charismatic people who others seem to instantly warm to. I most certainly do not feel like one of those people, and maybe if you’re reading this right now, neither do you.
Whether it’s what we look like, the beliefs we hold, an unconventional hobby, a quirky sense of humor, or taste — we each have qualities that can sometimes make us feel like the odd one out.
Your reasons why will no doubt be different from mine, but here’s the thing:
It’s so easy to blame our self-perceived flaws for why we feel this way — too shy, too bossy, too serious, too emotional, too stupid, too smart, too eclectic, too this, that, and the other.
I’m not going to flatter your ego and tell you that you are a perfect little snowflake, so don’t ever change.
The truth is that there are always things we can do to improve any situation — which in this instance is being able to form stronger relationships.
But I do want to start the process with the recognition that feeling like you don’t have a whole lot in common with others, feeling like an outsider, or feeling like you’re being left out is more of a universal struggle than you may think.
The reason for it is most certainly not that there’s something wrong with you.
Feeling lonely, misunderstood, and on the outside
Not long ago I went to dinner with a friend and two other acquaintances, who I don’t know so well, and by the end of the night, I wished I’d just stayed home.
The discomfort of feeling like I was forcing things with people I just didn’t click with was worse than no company at all. Perhaps you can relate?
Anecdotally, I’ve had many conversations recently with people who feel exactly the same.
A friend told me how she doesn’t “get the banter at work” and worries she is “too much of a deep thinker” so always feels on the outside of the group.
Another confessed that she doesn’t really feel like she has very many people in her life who she can “be herself around”.
Who would have thought it, worrying that you’re not normal because you don’t fit in is actually incredibly normal?
This is supported by studies that say 3 in every 5 adults feel lonely. People report a lack of companionship, that their relationships are not meaningful and that they are isolated from others.
This feeling of separation from the whole is a big spiritual theme. It’s part of the human condition. In the cheery words of Orson Welles…
“We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone”.
So how do we make this journey of life feel less alone along the way?
What to do when you have nothing in common with anybody
1) Stop thinking of yourself as being different from everyone else because it’s going to psych you out
Here’s what I’ve noticed:
When we get it into our heads that we are different or when we feel like we need to make more of an effort to get someone to like us, it affects how we show up.
Conversations take on this pressured feeling that ends up being really awkward, forced, or fake somehow.
In short, we end up trying too hard.
At the root of all real human connections lies authenticity.
We are constantly analyzing one another. We do this through way more than what is being said.
Experts have suggested that as much as 93% of all communication is nonverbal.
We are silently taking in tone of voice, the expressions that cross somebody’s face, the way they stand, and much more.
We’ve evolved to be experts at reading people. That means we can also pick up on subtle energetic cues.
If you are playing on repeat in your head that you can’t relate to others — you’re more likely to inadvertently create this scenario in the process.
Flip the narrative and assume that you must have at least one thing in common with every single person you meet.
Become curious about discovering these things, no matter how obscure they may be.
2) Ask yourself if you’re really opening up to people and letting them get to know you
It’s one of those potentially clichéd truisms in life that whenever we feel like something is being withheld from us, we are usually withholding from ourselves in some way.
Many years ago I was discussing with a woman I’d recently met how I always seemed to go for emotionally unavailable men.
I had rationalized this as one of those Freudian ‘we’re always looking for relationships that model our own parents’ type of thing.
When she suddenly hit me with a complete curveball:
“Do you think you are emotionally available?”
It was the thing I had never considered. What I was looking for in someone else — emotional availability — maybe I was withholding from others.
In order to create connections in life, we have to be open to them in the first place.
Otherwise, it’s like closing up shop whilst simultaneously moaning about how you never get any customers.
In practicality, that goes beyond just saying we want to “click” with more people.
It’s useful to reflect on anywhere your words and actions may not be matching up and then call yourself out on that.
Often we create defense mechanisms that we are not consciously aware of:
- Are you hiding your real self — your thoughts, opinions, beliefs — from people for fear of what they may think?
- Do you avoid sharing personal details with others preferring chit-chat?
- Are you turning down invitations to do things or go places?
- Do you struggle to ask for help and always try to do everything yourself?
- Do you withdraw to avoid any form of confrontation?
- Do you use labels like “introvert” or “socially awkward” to avoid putting yourself out there and trying to meet new people?
There’s no doubt that human relationships can feel vulnerable. Sometimes discomfort over that vulnerability is prompting us to hold back.
3) Start seeing what makes you unique as your superpower rather than a weakness
At the risk of sounding like your teacher or your mom, the world really would be a pretty boring place if we were all alike. It would be like one of those creepy dystopian films.
We all have qualities that we sometimes wish we could minimize, but it’s important to accept that they exist not in isolation but on a spectrum.
At the other end is probably something pretty epic about you.
Often, parts of our personality we don’t like are inseparable from the very thing that makes us special and unique in other ways.
Perhaps what makes you painfully shy in certain situations is also the same thing that makes you incredibly sensitive, compassionate, and insightful.
Would you really be willing to sacrifice the qualities that make you extraordinary to feel more normal? Especially when the concept of “normal” is nothing but a fallacy.
The world would have lost so many of its most creative thinkers, talented scientists, and greatest athletes if our primary concern became fitting in rather than celebrating and honouring what makes us stand out.
4) Don’t try to be someone else, stay true to who you really are
It can be tempting to filter who we are and what we say to try to please people.
When you worry that others don’t like you, this may become an even more appealing option. But pretending is always pointless.
Firstly, there’s the practical reason that it’s an impossible act to keep up, not to mention a very lonely one too.
Secondly, others tend to see straight through it, which then makes creating a sincere connection impossible.
The more you work on liking who you are, the easier it will feel to allow others to see the real you too.
Self-acceptance strengthens your confidence. The more confident you feel, the less you worry about pleasing others and the more you focus on making yourself happy.
As if by magic, self-esteem is magnetic and can improve your ability to create healthier relationships with other people at the same time.
5) Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone and try new things
If you want to increase the number of connections in your life then you have to be open to doing things differently.
All change asks us to step away from what is familiar, and that might make you uncomfortable.
Get out and try new things, explore new interests, join new clubs, go to a gym, take a course and change up your current routine.
If sitting on the couch binge-watching Netflix isn’t working for you right now, then it’s time to try something else.
Consider checking out local meetups in your community — whether that’s walking groups, book clubs, yoga classes, etc — and just give it a go.
Chances are there are many things out there yet to be discovered which could interest you. Who knows, along with it, you may just meet a whole lot of new people too.
6) Stop automatically approaching it as your fault
I once saw a great graphic that read:
“Maybe I’m not too sensitive, maybe you’re just a dickhead”.
There’s nothing quite like a healthy dose of reframing to help you see things from another perspective.
Sure, if you constantly struggle to find common ground with people you meet, it’s incredibly challenging. But if you just happen to not get along with a few colleagues at your new job, don’t automatically shoulder all the blame.
Who says it is definitely you?
Maybe you’re not too deep for them, maybe they are too shallow for you.
Maybe you’re not too sarcastic for them, maybe they are too serious for you.
Maybe you’re not too quirky for them, maybe they are too boring for you.
The truth is there are no “wrong” personality traits or “right” ones. They are not too this or that any more than you are.
But flipping your thoughts on their head can highlight where you’re being unnecessarily hard on yourself by taking sole responsibility for creating a connection when in reality there is always more than one person involved.
7) Get creative when it comes to looking for potential connections
There are 7.6 billion people on this planet.
You are unique, so you are never going to be exactly like somebody else. Having said that, 7.6 billion is a pretty big selection of potential friends to choose from.
I’m no mathematician but statistically speaking, I’d say you’ve got a pretty good chance of finding people you do have things in common with — you’ve just got to know where to look.
For all its potential drawbacks, one fantastic thing about the internet and social media is that it makes worldwide connections not only possible but easy.
These days, you will find dedicated websites, forums, and groups for just about every weird and wonderful interest out there.
If you have a passion for 15th-century poetry, if you know all the lyrics to every Kiss song ever written, if you are fascinated by palm reading — I’d be willing to bet there are people out there who feel the same way.
When once upon a time we were limited to forming friendships with people we happened to meet by chance, these days random strangers can quickly become the closest of companions.
8) Keep your inner critic in check
Unless you’re a total narcissist, chances are — just like the rest of us — you are prone to hearing a little negative voice in your head that just loves to point out all your flaws.
Your inner critic often gets louder when you are in a stressful or unfamiliar situation, when you’re worried about something or when you feel like you’ve made a mistake.
If you’re not careful, your inner critic can steal your confidence and talk you out of taking proactive steps to get to know people.
When you notice a negative narrative start to play out in your mind, actively question it.
Avoid following the fearful train of thoughts that will only lead to doomsday scenarios.
Whilst you won’t always be able to make your inner critic go away, you can call it out and choose to ignore it.
9) Recognize that not having direct things in common, doesn’t in itself prevent you from forming loving bonds
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
You may not need to have as much in common with someone as you think in order to establish a strong relationship.
Opposites certainly can attract — which goes for friendships as well as romantic partners.
We often appreciate qualities within another person that help to balance us out or offer another perspective.
Being exactly like someone is not a prerequisite for bonding (which is lucky, or 99.9% of the world probably wouldn’t even love their own families).
We need to realize that there is a big difference between surface interests — our personal tastes and preferences — and the value-based building blocks beneath that form the foundation of who we truly are.
These deeper shared values are far more significant in creating worthwhile and satisfying relationships than whether you enjoy jigsaw puzzles and they love cars.
If somebody shares your values of honesty, respect, and healthy communication, this can be more than enough to move forward with to create a meaningful connection.
If you find it hard to communicate with someone, then it can be difficult to create a strong connection.
3 takeaway thoughts if you want to find more common ground with people
There’s no denying that human beings are social creatures and we do need one another. Yet there is no cookie-cutter mold when it comes to what those friendships and connections should look like.
Whenever you feel like you have nothing in common with the people around you, remember these 3 important things:
Life isn’t a popularity contest
No really, it isn’t. Don’t worry so much about the quantity of relationships in your life, focus more on the quality.
Get out of your head
I know it’s difficult but try not to overthink or internalize getting along with other people, because making it all about you is the very thing that will keep you stuck.
Stop trying to force it
Personally, I found that the less of shit I gave about making a “good impression” the easier it all became.
When I stopped trying so hard to push connections in the wrong places, I made room for more aligned connections to emerge.