Tips for Building More Meaningful Connections

February 15, 2024
Tips for Building More Meaningful Connections
Published on  Updated on  

“My loneliness is killing me.” 

If you’ve been relating to Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time” lyrics more than ever, you’re (somewhat ironically) in good company. 

Nearly 1 in 4 adults worldwide have reported feeling very or fairly lonely, says a 2023 Meta-Gallup survey.  

While the cause of our loneliness epidemic is still fiercely debated—conjectured culprits range from urbanization to increased internet access—with no consensus, most experts can agree that the “cure” for loneliness is social connection

But not just any social connection. It needs to be meaningful connection. To find out what distinguishes a meaningful connection from a meaningless one, and how you could facilitate more of the former in your life so you can finally shake off those icky feelings of isolation, continue reading. 

What’s a meaningful connection?

Meaningful, quality social connections comprise 5 components, according to a 2021 study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research:

  1. Rapport
  • Ability to be open and transparent
  • Non-judgmental communication
  • Paying attention and listening effectively
  1. Identity and commonality
  • Shared language and understanding
  • Sharing experiences and knowledge
  • Feeling normalized
  1. Valued interpersonal dynamic
  • Feeling close to peer
  • Safety and trust 
  1. Engagement
  • Sense of belonging
  1. Responded to and accepted 
  • Feeling accepted

Putting it all together, you can think of a meaningful connection as a two-way street where both parties derive fulfillment in the relationship by sharing vulnerability, common interests, and values. 

How to build more meaningful connections 

  1. So, how should you go about building meaningful connections?

#1: Be authentically you

The first—and most important—step is to be your authentic self. As mentioned, meaningful connections are built on transparency, shared values, and interests. You shouldn’t and cannot pretend to be/like something you’re not/don’t. 

So, to develop authenticity and embody your truest self, which helps attract people on the “same frequency” as you (because you’re mutually “primed” for a meaningful connection), first look within yourself to identify your core values and beliefs.

And if you’re struggling to define your core values and beliefs:

  • Reflect on past situations when you felt uncomfortable. What happened? In most cases, understanding what you don’t like will clarify your values and beliefs.
  • Think of people you admire; these could be family members, colleagues, friends, celebrities, or even fictional characters. What values and beliefs do they live by? 

#2: Be intentional about who you’d like to connect with

Now, a disclaimer: building meaningful connections doesn’t have to mean putting yourself out there and finding completely new friends. 

A more accessible starting point would be to look within people you already know (they could be in your close circle or simply a casual acquaintance). Identify those likely to share the same values and beliefs as you. If you can’t think of anyone at this step, don’t worry. A tried-and-true way to meet new friends with whom you have a lot in common is to think about things you like to do—and then do those things. Take that stand-up comedy class you’ve always wanted to try, check out paddle board surfing, or maybe join a chess club in your area.

#3: Get deep and vulnerable  

Once you have a list of people you’d like to forge a deeper, more meaningful connection with, find opportunities to go beyond the typical, “How have you been? I’m good!” conversations:

  • Prompt the other person to share more about themselves: Give them the opportunity to open up. Remember: a meaningful connection is a two-way street!
  • Get vulnerable: This doesn’t mean treating your friend as a stand-in therapist. Please do not trauma dump on a casual Tuesday night hang. Instead, get vulnerable—safely. Talk about a challenge you’re facing or something else in your life that you enjoy, then get deeper only when the situation calls for it (you’ll need to read the room for that!).  

Be patient

Like all good things, building a meaningful connection will take time. So, don’t expect it to happen instantly; keep showing up authentically (as your true self), and you’ll soon have nurtured loneliness-curing friendships founded on mutual understanding and trust. 

Published on  Updated on