Do you ever feel disconnected from the world around you?
You may well know the joy of finding someone who is on the same wavelength, but it can be harder to forge those connections as we get older.
In the old days, back at school, we might have said “will you be my friend?” to someone we’d like to spend more time with. But as we grow up, we might be nervous about creating space for new people, especially if others have let us down in the past.
As humans, not only do we need good community, but for a long time it was essential to our survival. In many ways today, we still need people to help us cope when we’re navigating difficulty, either through practical support or through the social benefits of having someone listen to us.
However, in a world that tends to focus more on being an individual rather than part of a group, we can find it more challenging if we need to create a network of people we can rely on when things get tough. The idea we should “suck it up” and “keep calm and carry on” can ring in our ears, as if we’re expected to have it all figured out on our own.
Marisa G. Franco calls all this the Paradox of People; on the one hand we might want to belong somewhere, but on the other, humans can feel scary, because they have the power to dismiss and reject us, and so we stay away. In one sense, we want a strong sense of community, but because we avoid it – to keep ourselves safe – we feel like there’s still a piece missing. If this sounds like you, this might help:
This week, maybe set the intention to Complete the Circle. It might be helpful to start by acknowledging how many different types of friendship group you have. That might include the street you live on, the place you work, or the hobbies you do. Take a ‘friendship inventory’ – how many spaces do you occupy, and what do the people in them add to your life?
You might also reflect if, especially since the pandemic, your circle has got smaller, what might be preventing you from stretching your wings to meet more people. Are you worried they’ll think you’re weird for reaching out a hand of friendship? Or do you feel like you lack the social skills to hold down a meaningful conversation. In his book, How to Talk to Anyone About Anything, James W. Williams suggests things like:
- Asking questions, and showing an interest in other people. A lot of people like the opportunity to talk about themselves given half the chance;
- Knowing what matters to you, for example being able to describe your values and what you care about;
- Mastering the art of ‘small talk’ – you’d be surprised how conversations can flourish when you start with something like “what beautiful weather we’re having”.
In her TED talk, Franco goes on to explain the ‘liking gap’ and the ‘acceptance prophecy’, which suggests that, actually, we are less likely to be rejected than we might think. In other words, assume people will like you, because the chances are they probably will.
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© Delphi Ellis 2023