Connection to others is sometimes hard to grasp. However, there is a way to get closer with people and fast! This practical guide will show you how to connect with others in less than 60 minutes.
Did you know that over 60% of lonely people are in fact married? This is because loneliness does not depend on having friends or a relationship, loneliness is related to the quality of the relationships we have with others. Therefore, if a person no longer shares their thoughts and feelings with their partner or others, they feel alone and disconnected.
Feeling disconnected from others does not only feel bad, but it can also affect our health. Even moderate feelings of loneliness can increase blood pressure and the release of stress hormones (e.g., cortisol); thus, adding to the risk of cardiovascular disease. On the up side, a meta-analysis showed that people with fulfilling social relationships have a decreased risk of mortality compared to people with unsatisfying social relationships.
Why don’t we take the time to properly connect with other people? Nowadays, it appears, that ‘busyness’ is a status symbol. It is also not unlikely that you have seen the following scenarios: couples out to dinner checking their phones even before scanning the menu; people waiting in line with their eyes on their smartphones instead on those around them. It’s not people ignoring their surroundings, it’s actually a false sense of assurance: We post a tweet about what we are doing and think everybody is up to date with our lives again. Is that a true connection to other people though?
What can we do about this?
Apparently, making friends is not that hard: You just have to ask the right questions.
Aron and colleagues, of the Stony Brook University in New York, found the recipe for making even complete strangers bond and form friendships in 45 minutes. They developed the “Fast Friends protocol”, which was designed to induce feelings of closeness in the lab. In this protocol, two strangers undergo a self-disclosure and relationship-building task.
In their study there where two conditions for comparison, a “closeness-condition” and a “small-talk-condition”. In both conditions the participants took turns asking and answering questions. The questions in the closeness-condition started of trivial, such as: “Would you like to be famous? In what way?”, and gradually progress to more personal areas, such as: “What do you value most in a friendship?” and “What is your most treasured memory?”. The questions in the small-talk-condition were far less emotionally, such as: “What is the best restaurant you’ve been to in the last month?” and “What gifts did you receive last Christmas/Hanukkah?”. This all took 45 minutes and then they were asked to stop.
Can you guess the results? People that dwelled into personal matters reported stronger feelings of closeness and were more willing to exchange contact details to meet up again. On the other hand, chitchat did not work when it came to forming bonds.
How do I apply this in everyday life?
What we can learn from this is: to form an emotional bond with other people, you have to build the connection gradually and be reciprocal. If you start off easy, with small talk, you can make the transition over time and start asking questions about deeper matters. Don’t try to disclose too much too fast, as this might put someone off! After your partner has answered, reciprocate by disclosing something personal about yourself as well.
This method seems to work best when you’re talking to someone face-to-face, for instance over a cup of coffee. You can use this technique with anyone, such as strangers, business colleagues, and even with people that you already know to strengthen the existing relationship.
To conclude, if we handle it properly—gradually and reciprocal—we can connect, within less that 60 minutes.