My Project Reconnect challenge for the month of February was exploring ways to move from connection to closeness. In January, I got into the habit of making connection a more regular, intentional part of my life. But reaching out isn’t the same as achieving the rich, supported intimacy we all crave. So how do we get there? Here are five lessons I learned as I explored this month how to move from connection to closeness in my relationships:
Reach for quality, not quantity
This month I assessed my level of loneliness, and was shocked at what I found. According to the scientifically validated UCLA loneliness scale, I scored a whopping 60 out of a possible 80, meaning that I’m not wrong to think that I need to reconnect. But in all my reading about loneliness this month, I came to the conclusion that what is really lacking in most of our lives is quality of relationships—not quantity. Like me, most Americans who say they are experiencing loneliness are not actually socially isolated. They just long for more authentic relationships—the ability to really see and be seen. So when it comes to connecting, establishing a habit of reaching out matters a lot, but finding ways to open up and be authentic matters a lot more.
Remember what it feels like to be close
This month I reflected upon the most vibrant and life-giving friendship I’ve ever had, which for me was my childhood best friend. I asked myself and others what friendship really means, and discovered that familiarity (the sense of really being known), reliability (the complete knowledge that the other person isn’t going anywhere) and intersectionality (the feeling of being deeply intertwined and interwoven) were what matter most for me. Which gives me some things to focus on as I try to build relationships that—like that friendship did—move past the surface and really satisfy my hunger for close connection.
Receive it when it comes
I also spent some time looking back on friendships in which I felt a frustrating distance, and realized that it happened most when one of us was unwilling to receive. In order to really move from connection to closeness, we have to reach out, but we also have to be willing to receive when others reach out to us. This can feel vulnerable—even scary. But it’s a critical piece of the puzzle if we want to move our relationships into a more authentic, mutually supportive place.
Open up about the big stuff, so others can too
This month I wrote a piece in which I laid bare a deep struggle in my life that I have shared with almost no one. In doing so I learned how liberating it can be to speak your truth. In that piece I also reflected upon what the appropriate reaction is when someone else speaks their truth to me. How we react when someone finds the courage to speak honestly about what they’re going through can make or break our ability to connect on a deeper level.
Find ways to speak truthfully—even about the little stuff
Finally, this month I explored what authenticity might look like in more everyday interactions. Finding the courage to speak your truth in big, dramatic moments is one thing. But learning to do it everyday in the face we present to the world is another. I experimented with what it might look like to present a far less curated version of myself to others. Putting that in practice on a daily basis? That may be a challenge for another month…
February was mostly a month of reflection. I took some time to really explore and experience what deep, close connection can and will feel like. And as a result, I feel more motivated than ever to keep finding ways to reconnect this year!