Nowadays there is a lot of chatter about the impact of social media on our sense of connection. On one hand, we have plenty of effective tools to stay connected and even reconnect with old acquaintances, and one the other hand, people feel increasingly more isolated and lonely.
Social media tools can smartly be used as bridges between real-life moments of deeper connections but they can also easily become our autopilot default when we allow our busy lifestyles to erode our capacity for meaningful in-person interactions.
And sadly, while we’re busy trying to “stay connected” superficially with the help of our electronic devices, we’re at risk of losing our ability to deeply and authentically connect with our intimate partner and dearest friends.
Cultivating a real, authentic, deeper connection with our intimate partner and with our closest friends is essential to feel fulfilled as human beings. Yes, even for those of us who are more solitary. Everyone needs at least a couple of close relationships to feel a sense of security, meaning and belonging in in one’s life and in the world.
Such deeper relationship is not about the amount of time spent together, or even what is being done together. It’s about the authenticity and depth of what can be shared within and in between these moments of togetherness.
Concretely it means that both people in the relationship are able and willing to:
Share the feelings that they are experiencing when it’s relevant and/or desired to do so, from the most pleasant ones (joy, hope, wonder) to the most painful ones (grief, shame, rage).
Be present when the other person is sharing such feelings, without needing to escape physically, withdraw emotionally, or fix the other person.
Notice when they can’t be present at that time, and express it honestly so that they can take a break without feeling guilty or creating misunderstandings.
Refrain from judging, not only the feelings that are shared but also the underlying narrative or event that triggered them.
Express and listen to opinions that are different than theirs, by tolerating the discomfort and remaining in a state of openness and curiosity.
Now, it does not mean that conversations at that level happen all the time. Basically it does not necessarily mean that the relationship is about talking for hours about every single feeling and experience. What it does means is that there is space for such sharing when it’s desired or relevant, and definitely when it’s necessary, such as when one person is going through a meaningful event (good or bad) or when there is a need to make a sensitive decision together or resolve a conflict.
Relationships where such level of depth is accessible are not only happy and healthy but they are absolutely delicious. There is no way to feel isolated, lonely or disconnected when we have part of at least one or two such relationships. We feel seen, heard, care for. We feel like we are in this together.
What does it take to relate at that level?
Of course, it takes two to tango! But connecting deeply with someone requires to be deeply connected with one self first. It’s impossible to relate emotionally with someone when we are not even aware of what we are feeling because we constantly repress, deny or project our emotions. It’s impossible to be present to someone’s feelings when we can’t be present to our own.
So start by feeling it all and fine-tune your ability to be present to more and more aspects of your self. Form there, see if you can start sharing a bit more deeply with your intimate partner and close friends while also creating a safe space for them to deepen the range of what they feel comfortable talking about with you.
The book “Nonviolent Communication” by Marshall Rosenberg offers a simple model for beginners to start the process of sharing feelings and needs while taking full personal responsibility.
Click here for a fantastic list of feelings offered by the Center for Nonviolent Communication. All the feelings are sorted by families of emotions, which makes the list an effective tool to expand our emotional awareness and vocabulary.
Wishing you all happy, healthy and delicious relationships!