Family and Friends

Reaching out to friends and family

A family sharing a group hug

“No man is an island, entire of itself” – John Donne, 1624.

This saying holds true, almost four hundred years later. People have always sought companionship in each other. You might be trying to convince yourself that you are different, that you are strong, or that you don’t feel a need to connect. You might even truly feel this way but you need to understand that everybody has a basic need to connect regardless of how they feel. The types of connections made, and their significance in life can vary across different cultures, however, this doesn’t alter the primary fact that having meaningful relationships is a critical component of your physical and emotional wellbeing.

Still having fantasies about being a strong, confident, lone ranger? It is okay to want solitude, but you should realise that having a few meaningful relationships won't interfere with your alone time. Everybody needs some love. Relationships, especially meaningful ones have the potential to add value to your solitary experiences.  Here are a few reasons for you to begin to build your own social circle.


A family

Friends make you live longer. Don’t believe it?  You don’t have to take my word for it. A group of researchers reviewed 148 studies with over 308,000 participants in total. The study participants had been followed for an average of 7.5 years in total. The overall results showed that people with stronger social relationships showed increased chances of survival, placed at about 50%.

Help in dealing with stress

Talking about a problem with someone usually makes the task seem less intimidating. Having a group of people that you can lean on, or even simply complain about the unfairness of life makes it easier to go through things. Being able to head out to the club for a couple of drinks, or relax with people who truly care about you makes for a better quality of life. Quality relationships act as a buffer against the hardship and unfairness of life.

Friends can make you healthier

A group of friends running together

Looking for fitness? Having a fitness pal such as a running mate or a diet buddy makes it easier for you to remain focused on your goal. Social relationships have been shown to affect several aspects of a person’s health. Having quality relationships improves a person’s wellbeing which is reflected in mental health, health behaviours, physical health, and mortality risks. The quality of the relationship a person builds from childhood has also been shown to have long term outcomes for their quality of life.

Friends can help you get that new job

A lady at an interview

Trying to land a new job? Having the right friends can give you an easy access to a wide network of professionals willing to help you get a job. A recent survey revealed that about 85% of jobs are gotten through networking both online and offline.

Friends can increase your productivity

A group of people working together

Relationships are the key to productivity in the workplace. Being able to maintain quality relationships in the workplace with has been shown to reduce stress in the workplace as well as increase overall staff productivity.

Putting your feelings aside, it is clear that social isolation, whether self-imposed or otherwise can have devastating effects on the quality and quantity of life that you live. You stand to gain a lot from making the right connections. If you don’t already have a support base, then it’s time to start building one.

Building your own network of meaningful relationships

A group of friends

One relationship could serve several purposes, or you could have several different connections each one of them serving a purpose. There is no “one size fits all” approach to creating meaningful connections with other people.

Except for a few lucky people, relationships don’t just appear out of nowhere. They take time and effort. This effort in building relationships come naturally to some people. For some others, it involves a lot of extra effort. There are techniques that make it easier to start a connection, however, relationships are like a garden. You can’t just plant seeds and abandon it with expectations of growing a beautiful garden. Creating a meaningful relationship is highly dependent on the amount of effort you put into nurturing it. There are different approaches to building successful relationships depending on if it’s a professional or a personal relationship.

Building a purposeful professional relationship

Colleagues at work

A meaningful work relationship is one which the values of trust, mutual respect, open communication, and honesty along with a friendly atmosphere. In view of the fact that a large percentage of your time is spent at work, building the right relationships at work is definitely not an exercise in futility.

Meaningful connections at work are a great way to reduce work stress and increase work productivity. Most employees already try to create a work atmosphere that encourages socialising amongst colleagues because the benefits of having a great workplace are numerous to employers and employees alike. If you are isolated at work, and are looking for ways to foster meaningful connections with your colleagues, here are a few great tips:

  • Improve your interpersonal skills. In particular, skills like collaboration, communication, conflict resolution and team spirit make for a more pleasant experience of working with you. This will make you more likely to form direct relationships with your colleagues.
  • Keep an open communication line makes you more approachable. Being able to share your knowledge and expertise with the team and giving positive feedback to your teammates is a good way to connect with them on a more personal basis.
  • Ask for help, or offer to help when you can. You could ask for help with your projects or offer to help with other people’s project if you have extra time. The feeling of working together towards a common goal promotes quality interpersonal connections.
  • Participate in non-work activities. If a co-worker invites you or if you find that you have similar interests with some colleagues outside of work, do not hesitate to join in group activities outside of work.
  • Start conversations with your co-workers. A friendly, good morning, or a five minute coffee-break chat is a good way to stay connected.
  • Recognise and respect boundaries. Don’t be afraid to have your own boundaries, and learn to respect other people’s boundaries. Knowing when to stop is an important social skill that can foster better relationships.
  • Recognise difficult relationships. If for some reason you are unable to foster a positive relationship with a colleague, then recognise that and revert to keeping your interactions with them purely professional. You have to recognize that you mustn’t have a meaningful or personal connection to everyone.

The quality of your work relationships directly affects the quality of your work output. Having a better relationship with your colleague, increases the resources available to you at work and makes your workplace a lot more pleasant and stress free.

Building meaningful social connections

Multiple faces

Belonging to a circle of old friends can be great. Long term friends have the advantage of having known you for a long time. They are easier to spend time with, especially if you still have common interests as you get older. If you find yourself without a social circle of friends, you know it’s time to create one. It doesn’t matter if you have a significant other, having meaningful friendships are great for your social and emotional wellbeing. The right social connections give you a chance to explore the social scene, but also form an important support base for you if you happen to fall into trying times. You ought to keep the following in mind when trying to build meaningful connections.

  • Expect to invest time and effort. Building the right social connections start from the beginning of the relationship. Nurturing casual relationships into worthwhile connections takes a large investment of your time and efforts. Don’t expect to have a BFF from day one, but also, don’t give up on potential relationships too early. Cultivate your friendships with patience and don’t be afraid to ask for reciprocation. Remember to have realistic expectations of what your friendship is about.
  • Be open. Cultivating a meaningful connection involves getting to know each other. Keep the communication lines open will ensure that this foundational phase is not compromised, it also helps ensure that whatever friendships develop are genuine relationships.
  • Be selfless and undemanding. Genuine relationships should not be about how you can use a person to your advantage. Remember that it’s not about what the person can do for you, but about what you can do for the person. You also need to be on the lookout so that you won’t be taken advantage of either due to your friendly nature. Making demands of friendships at an early stage can be a huge turn off.A couple together
  • Learn to identify potential friendships. It’s possible to find meaningful friendships anywhere. Mutual interests are usually a great indicator that a person would make a good friend. Consider a persons values and outlook on life, as well as their current friends as these would also determine how genuine your connection to that person is likely to be. This would also be a great indicator of how successful you are likely to be at building a meaningful relationship with that person.
  • Be flexible. You are who you are, true. Sometimes you have to be someone else for friendship’s sake. Accept that. As long as it doesn’t go against your moral values or anything too serious, you should be able to do some things for your friend. You might not like to go clubbing, but occasionally going clubbing with someone because they asked is not such a bad thing.
  • Be supportive. It’s a circle, today you, tomorrow them. If you want to be able to lean on people for support, then you have to be able to give some support in return
  • Recognise when to stop. This is also important, and to understand  when a person does not want to be friends with you and to walk away gracefully.

Making real life friends from social media

Social media

Having a large online following, or a high number of social media friends and followers might seem like everyone’s dream, but that doesn’t always translate to meaningful friendships in real life. Reaching out to a person you only know online in real life could feel like stalker behaviour. The good news is there are non-creepy ways to transfer an online friendship into a genuine and satisfying real friendship.

  • Make use of local groups, support groups and other local events in your social media of choice. Several social media platforms such as Facebook, google+, Meetup or LinkedIn often have groups. Spend some time online searching for local groups with interests that you prefer, support groups, or other local event in your area. Participate in the group activities. Try to attend hosted events and keep an open mind about the people that you will meet. Since you already share one or more similar interests, it is likely that you will find someone who you can create a genuine friendship with.
  • Keep your profile real, your opinions honest and your photos regular. Don’t try to appear perfect, and definitely don’t be “spammy” in your messages. One message, or a maximum of two messages is fine, and then you wait for a response.
  • Do some research on the person you are reaching out to, try and make sure you share the same interests, values and general outlook in life. This would make the likelihood of getting along higher. The location might not be very important, but it certainly helps if you are both in the same location.
  • Use the best social media for your age demographic. Millennials between ages 18-24 are more likely to meet their peers on social media dominated by this age demographic such as Snapshot, Vine, and Tumblr. The 25-34 age group dominate social media websites like Facebook, google+, twitter, and Instagram. 35-44 year olds are also more likely to be seen on Linkedin.

A group of friends

Friendships are an important part of a healthy life. The simple things in life can be made to feel extraordinary if it’s done with the right group of people. Life is made more beautiful by friends and family. Connect with people and experience the joy of life.