Connecting with others is now proven by research to be good for our moods, and even our physical health.

But what is “connecting to people,” really? What makes it so important? How can you tell if you are connecting to others, and what can you do if this subject a constant struggle for you?

What does connecting with people mean?

Real connection is more than just talking to others or sharing interests. After all, we can talk for over an hour with someone about sports or politics even if we secretly can’t stand them.

More profound than mere conversation, true connection can happen without words, and with someone, we don’t even know. On the other hand, constant contact, such as working with someone every day, is no guarantee of actual connection.

Connecting with others is a sense of being open and available to another person, even as you feel they are open and accessible to you. Other ingredients of human connection are empathy and compassion – we feel goodwill to the person we are connecting with.

Examples of human connection are things such as the below:

Having a personal conversation about what is important to you with someone and feeling listened to and understood
Taking the time to listen to someone else and feeling real empathy for them
Helping someone else out of unconditional goodwill
Offering sincere gratitude to another and receiving gratitude from others
Catching a strangers eye and both smiling
A shared experience with others that involves laughter and goodwill.

How do I know if I’m connecting to others?

  1. You are in the moment.
    When we connect with others, we are no longer thinking about what went wrong in the past or of our future worries. We are just fully available to the present moment and to the shared experience we are having with another.
  2. You are being yourself.
    The human connection only works if there is honesty. It doesn’t work if we are trying to be something we aren’t.
  3. You feel open– whether you feel good or not.
    Connecting with others often feels good. But this is actually not always true. Feeling enough trust with someone to share a sad experience or something you are upset about can be a powerful way of connecting with someone as well.
  4. You feel empathy and kindness for the other person.
    Anger or meanness closes us down to connection, as does judgment and criticism.
    Human connection is usually kind. Sure, we can feel connected, laughing with others about someone else. But often afterward, there is a hollow feeling, which shows it wasn’t a connection at all.
  5. A sense of trust exists between you and the other person.
    This can happen even between two strangers – for example, allowing someone to help you with your suitcase up a set of stairs shows you trust them.

And these things often aren’t a connection at all…

• If you are always trying to connect with others by being interesting, funny, or smart, and you are always looking to others’ reactions to know what to do next? You are not really connecting. In your need to feel accepted, you are not being yourself, or are even manipulating others for attention.

• If you think you are connecting with others, but it’s based around a shared dislike of other people, or on talking about others? Sure, you have something in common, but that tight feeling inside is not one of trust and connection.

Think that connection is easy for you because you are always ‘laughing’? Many people hide themselves behind humor, and again, you can’t connect if the real you isn’t present. As for ‘fun’ nights out, this can sometimes lead to genuine sharing and connection. But if the only thing you share is that you both like drinking or dancing, then it’s a shared experience over a true connection.

• Spending years of your life with someone sadly does not equal to proper connection. If you are not able to be yourself or trust the other, or if they are hiding their true self, and if a trust is just not there, then you are merely passing the time together. Sadly, this all too often passes for ‘friendship’ or even a relationship in modern society.