How many people do you know? Now, think about how many people you really know. We all have a fundamental “need to belong” — an innate desire to form stable interpersonal relationships. We all want meaningful friendships.
The link between our relationships and wellbeing has been recognized for centuries. However, it wasn’t really until the 1980s that psychologists started studying the connection between the quality of people’s relationships and their happiness. They found out that it’s not the number of friends you have that matter most — instead, it is the strength of those connections which is important.
So what about your friendships — do they make you feel understood, inspired, and uplifted? A 2010 clinical review found that people with strong social ties have a 50% higher chance of living longer than those who don’t have friends or family they feel close to. So, regardless of how many Instagram followers you have, it’s the people in your life who really know you, understand you, love and support you that count the most.
However, finding like-minded kindred spirits who resonate with you and developing meaningful connections is hard. So here are seven steps we’ve found to be really helpful.
1. Open your mind.
To really listen requires a lot more than just your ears. Engage both your heart and mind when meeting someone new. The key is to keep an open mind — to see beneath the surface is to connect meaningfully with someone. After all, it is having similar core values which makes for the most fruitful and sustainable friendships.
2. Be authentic.
We all know the “just be yourself cliche. But there is a lot of wisdom in it! Whilst trying to ‘fit in’ might work in the short term, being your true self will allow you to form long-lasting friendships with people who genuinely value and understand you.
3. Ask thoughtful questions.
Asking thoughtful questions is a great way to connect with people on a deeper level and get to know them better. This will also not only show the other person that you value their point of view but avoid the awkward small talk that so many of us have endured. Taking the time to consistently learn about the other person and investing conscious energy are timeless ways to develop the foundations for lifelong friendships.
4. Be vulnerable.
If you feel it is appropriate, talking about your fears from the past or what scares you about the future helps open up the conversation. Most importantly, though, it builds trust. This allows for a mutual sense of understanding and expands the horizon of what is possible in your friendship — whilst helping you both grow as individuals.
5. Look in the right places.
More often than not, we rely on chance and circumstance to forge our closest friendships. We depend on the connections we made in high school or during our first year of university.
But then we graduate and enter the world of work — now what?
This is where the technological gifts of the modern century become useful. Friendship apps can step in as a sure way to meet new people. For example, Serendip asks you questions that get to the core of what you really value, and simply connects you with those around you who share your sense of self.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. If you find talking to new people daunting (and honestly, who doesn’t?), write down some facts about you, such as:
- Two hobbies
- Strongest beliefs
- Three likes and dislikes
- Your biggest ambition
When performing this introspection, you will learn more about yourself — which will allow you to communicate more effectively when meeting someone new.
7. Remember that meaningful friendships equal service.
Forming connections with new people can be a great way to learn, find inspiration, and receive support. However, making and maintaining friendships isn’t the same as paying for a gym membership! It requires time and energy: You have to focus on building compassion for each other, spending quality time together, and helping one another through life’s ups and downs. It is about how we can serve the other person and not what we can gain which makes for a beautiful friendship.
Building connections with others takes time and effort. But investing your energy into forming strong friendships will put you on the right path toward a happier, more meaningful life!