I used to struggle with making and keeping strong connections with those close to me.
Now I’m able to do it now by applying a few simple, key principles and techniques.
In this article, I’ll take you through 12 things that are holding you back from making genuine connections, and go through some key ways that you can change.
Let’s get to it.
1) In with the wrong crowd
It might be surprising to realize just how much energy you waste trying to fit in with people who don’t actually want to be your friend.
It’s not that they don’t like you, it’s just that you don’t quite fit in.
My father taught me this principle.
He said to me: “It might sound obvious, but if your friends don’t want you around, you’re wasting your time and energy trying to fit in.”
Here’s the thing: he’s right.
We’ve only got so much time and energy to give. Which means it’s always a good idea to reassess exactly where you’re putting that time and energy.
Your time and energy are valuable and if you’re wasting them on people who don’t want to have you around or who have no interest in truly connecting with you, it’s going to be hard to make a real, valuable connection.
2) Too social media focused
As a society, we’ve been ushered into a new era of connectivity.
Social media brings us all together, no matter the distance, no matter the person. We’re able to stay connected with our most distant relatives, as well as our closest friends.
However, social media isn’t the best way to make real, genuine connections with people.
How so? Well, there’s only one dimension involved.
Much like a pen-pal, it’s possible to establish a loyal, long-standing connection, but that connection is limited to the words on the page. Or in this case, the screen.
If you find yourself putting all importance on posts, stories, getting likes, and having an online presence, you may actually be absent from real life.
What could that look like?
Maybe when you’re hanging out with your friends, you put all your priority on documenting it for social media. Instead of enjoying a meal with the people you care about most, you’re making sure your followers get to see it, too.
To put it another way, no one can connect with you because your phone is in the way.
Putting your phone down will allow you to be fully present with your friends, and allow you to make genuine, deeper connections.
Your followers can wait.
In fact, social media may be far more sinister than you think, according to a former Facebook executive.
3) Always too busy
We all live busy lives, there’s no doubt about that. It’s hard to make time for the things we love with work, bills, obligations, and so on.
Think about it:
When your friends ask you to hang out, how do you respond? When you’re invited out to a social event, what do you usually say?
Is your excuse: “I’m just too busy” most of the time? It could be what’s holding you back from making connections with people.
I can’t stress this enough: It’s so important to make time for our friends — whether they’re old friends or new.
We’re social creatures, humans.
In fact, socializing with people is not only good for the brain, but it’s also good for the body too.
If you’re looking to make some real, genuine connections with people, it might be a good idea to reevaluate your priorities and make socializing with people first on the list.
If you feel like you don’t have any close friends, here’s a look at some reasons why that might be the case.
4) Too focused on your personal flaws
This has, at many times in the past, held me back from making real and genuine connections with people.
Too afraid that I’m not good enough. Worried that people just don’t like my company.
Am I being a downer? Am I really any fun to be around?
These thoughts and questions plagued my mind, and it kept me from enjoying the company of people. It held me back from making a connection that was immediate and real.
In other words, my insecurities came between me and others. No wonder, then, I struggled to truly connect with people.
It’s important to embrace yourself, flaws, and all when it comes to connecting with others.
Here’s what I mean:
Making a real connection with somebody involves a certain amount of trust and vulnerability. That can be scary, but it leads to good things. It leads to growth, connection, and a stronger bond.
We all deal with flaws, we all wonder who we really are.
Here’s a great article that discusses that ever-present, ever-important question: “Who am I?”
5) Focusing on the negative in people
It’s hard to admit to yourself that you focus too much on the negative in people.
However, it could be just the thing that’s holding you back from making real and lasting connections with them.
Here’s how it goes:
You meet someone new and you can’t wait to have them as a new friend. They’re fun to be around, easy to get along with, and you’re so excited to know someone so cool.
But as you get closer, you realize that it’s not all good. They’ve got flaws, opinions you disagree with, or they’ve upset you a couple of times. So, naturally, you pull back, disillusioned.
I’ve been there, and it’s a problem.
Nobody is perfect, and nobody is without flaw. It’s part of what makes connecting with people so special and unique.
We challenge each other and grow because of it.
Here’s the thing: that’s easier said than done. It could be that we see the negative in people because we’re afraid to change or acknowledge the negative in ourselves.
Seeing the negative in people could be one of the biggest reasons you struggle to connect with people.
And there’s something else: constantly being negative is actually bad for your health.
6) Bad at listening
Everyone wants to be heard. We each have a unique voice, something to bring to the table, something worth hearing.
But if your friends never feel like they’re heard by you, it could be an obstacle between you and having stronger connections with them.
Making sure to listen to your friends will help them to be closer to you, and you in turn with them.
In other words, it means you’ll be able to make those genuine connections.
However, if you aren’t the best at listening, it can be frustrating trying to connect with you. It might feel like a relationship with you is kind of a one-way street.
And who would want to be in a one-sided relationship, of any kind?
7) Emotionally unavailable
Making an emotional connection with someone, whether it’s a friend, colleague, or lover, is a huge component.
What that means is this:
If you’re emotionally unavailable, you’re going to struggle making real connections. Sure, maybe surface-level relationships will be a breeze, maybe even good.
But here’s the thing:
They’ll be lacking a crucial component: closeness.
They won’t be as close or as real as you want and it all traces back to the fact that you can’t make an emotional connection.
Being emotionally unavailable is a difficult thing to admit but admitting it to yourself is the first step in breaking down the barriers holding you back from making real, genuine connections.
What to do about it
Identifying the reason why you can’t connect with people is the first, crucial step in the journey towards a genuine connection.
What comes next is making those changes, taking a positive step towards being more available and able to connect.
1) Be in the moment
What’s happening right here and right now is the only thing that’s real.
The past is just a memory, the future hasn’t happened yet — and never will happen. The present, in that sense, is really the only one that exists.
But what does that have to do with making connections?
Let me explain:
Being in the present moment will allow you to focus on who is directly in front of you.
Instead of worrying about your followers and your social media account, you can focus on what’s happening in this moment, directly in front of you: the opportunity to really connect.
When you cherish the present moment and bring yourself fully into it, you’ll forget your fears and worries, and be able to be there 100% in a conversation, an experience, or a moment you share with another person.
2) Put yourself in their shoes
The ability to understand people will help you immensely in connecting with them. Instead of seeing them through the lens of “this person is my friend”, try to see them as they are, honestly.
See them outside of yourself, focus on what makes them so special and unique, how hard their journey has been, and so on. In other words, try to show them empathy.
Doing so will allow you to forge a deeper bond and connection for who they are, not just who they are to you.
3) Be your truest self
Being your truest self starts long before you meet up with your friends.
Honesty about who you are, what you love, what drives you, what your weaknesses are, and what makes you unique will then help you when it comes time to connect with people.
Furthermore, try not to focus on fitting in with your friend group. If fitting in is more important than being able to express your truest self, there’s no opportunity for real connection from the start.
When you’re being your truest self, people will see that honesty and appreciate it. They’ll connect with you, and then feel inspired to do the same. You’ll be able to see their truest self reflected in your example.
This is when the magic happens. This is when genuine, deep connections are forged.
Understanding your truest self starts with shadow work. If you’re curious to know more about what that is, take a look at this fascinating article.
4) Open up to people
Hiding behind shyness is never a great way to forge lasting and deep connections with people.
The fear of being accepted, the fear of fitting in, or the fear of your ideas being challenged all stand in the way of a deep connection.
When we open up ourselves to people, we open up ourselves to a lot of emotions, feelings, and even pain. It’s scary to put that trust in someone else’s hands but it’s vital to making an honest and real connection.
Try to open up to people more. Don’t be afraid to express your mind, your thoughts, and see how they react. You’ll be surprised how many genuine conversations you can have, even with complete strangers.
5) Put yourself out there
One of the biggest reasons I’ve struggled with connecting with people in the past was because I wasn’t putting myself out there enough.
What do I mean by that?
Well, you can’t make friends if you don’t try, right? It’s scary meeting new people, and it can take a while to forge the kind of connection that you may have had with friends in the past.
But here’s the thing: it’s totally worth it. When you put yourself out there, endeavor to strike up conversations with new people, and create new friendships, you’ll be surprised by the results.
Especially if you make sure to be yourself, listen closely, and be in the moment. It won’t be long before you’ve established strong, dynamic connections with people.