Different cultures have different beliefs about how important social connection and interdependence are to our lives. In the West, we like to think of ourselves as relatively good at avoiding others as we each pursue our personal destiny. Many define themselves as being ‘loners’. It is easy to convince ourselves that we do not need anyone, but how true is this really?
Across many studies of mammals, from the smallest rodents all the way to us humans, the data suggests that we are profoundly shaped by our social environment and that we suffer greatly when our social bonds are threatened or severed. When this happens in childhood it can lead to long-term health and educational problems. We may not like the fact that we are wired such that our well-being depends on our connections with others, but the facts are the facts.
Human connection is the sense of closeness and belongingness a person can experience when having supportive relationships with those around them. Connection is when two or more people interact with each other and each person feels valued, seen, and heard. There’s no judgement, and you feel stronger and nourished after engaging with them.
Human connection can be a chat over a meal with a friend, a hug from a partner after a long day, or a hike in the mountain with a family member. Connecting with someone doesn’t have to always include words, either. Time spent in relative closeness and experience can also be a bonding experience.
Why is human connection so important?
Human beings are a social species, wired to connect.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, besides food, water, and safety, love and belonging are the most important needs we must fulfil. This includes our desire for interpersonal relationships, intimacy, to connect with others, and to be integrated into a group. When these needs are met, our overall well-being improves, and we live a more fulfilled life.
The 2021 World Happiness Report found that people who experienced an increase in connectedness with others during the pandemic had:
1. Greater life satisfaction
2. More resilience
3. Better mental health
Having a strong support system helps people overcome challenges more easily and maintain a state of mental well-being. Human connection also decreases health risks and improves physical well-being and longevity. Strong social connections strengthen the immune system and increase your chances of a longer life by 50%.
How do you make human connections?
Making human connections sometimes requires being brave and taking chances. For example, striking up a conversation with someone new can be intimidating, especially if you’re uncertain of their response. It requires you to step out of your comfort zone despite feeling nervous.
Ultimately, the rewarding feeling of building human connections far outweighs the initial fear you may feel when you put yourself out there. Let’s look at a few simple ways you can connect with others.
1. Surround yourself with people with shared interests
It’s easy to bond with people who share the same interests and hobbies as you.
2. Overcome your resistance
Building relationships is often intimidating because of a natural fear of rejection. But to make these connections, we must overcome our resistance to change and embrace situations outside our comfort zone.
3. Smile, and embrace a positive attitude
First impressions count. Trying to have a generally positive demeanour and a genuine smile will naturally draw people to you.
That doesn’t mean you have to be positive all the time or blindly optimistic. But it’s helpful to do a gratitude exercise and spend a few minutes noticing what is good in your life prior to spending time around others. Research shows people are more drawn to positive emotions than negative ones when it comes to forming social connections.
So, if you want to maximise your chances of being a people magnet, put your best self forward.
4. Be open to others
If you want to make friends more easily, allow yourself to be more vulnerable with others. That doesn’t mean to drop all filters or boundaries. Too much, too soon can put others off and leave you feeling more alone. But you also don’t have to be a curated version of yourself.
People can sense whether someone is genuine or not, so let them see the most authentic version of you. Your vulnerability will also prompt them to feel comfortable around you and connect with you on a deeper level.
5. Don’t hide in your phone
It’s easy to retreat into our smartphones when we’re feeling uncomfortable in a social situation. But this can hinder our ability to make real-life connections.
6. Stay in touch
Human connection needs to be nurtured. For example, if you’ve made a new friend, keep in touch with them and grow your friendship. At the same time, work on maintaining your existing relationships with close friends, family, or team members.
Regular contact deepens your connections with others and ensures you don’t lose touch with those you value most.
Remember, humans are inherently social creatures; we are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to belong. Much like the relationship we have with ourselves, our relationship with others is conducive to happiness and fulfilment, providing meaning and purpose in the everyday. In an increasingly isolated and digitally engaged world, we all need real connection more than ever, and the profound impact of both human & social connectivity shouldn’t be overlooked.