21-Steps Toward Stronger Social Connections

We all receive inbox advice forwarded from friends and family members. My mother is my “email-fairy” in this regard – regularly sending me tidbits of wisdom, which she believes might prove helpful in my psychotherapy practice. Many of these messages describe stronger social connections as a way of achieving personal happiness.

As a dutiful son, I (usually) open these (sometimes daily) messages – in fact, here’s a related article about lessons I’ve learned from mom’s incessant emailing.

I’m reprinting one of these fairy-emails to jump into a pool of current global thought: How do we reconnect with others after all the mind, body, spirit, and cultural curveballs of 2020? 

Below are 21 suggestions (thanks to mom) for strengthening social connection. I’m expanding the conversation with a sprinkling of my psychological philosophies throughout these rankings:

21-Steps Toward Stronger Social Connections

  1. Don’t hog the conversation. Allow others to contribute equally. This balanced back-and-forth builds solid bonds and bolsters esteem for all involved.
  2. Create a life with someone who “gets you.” Choose a life-partner who’s easy to understand. Shared communication skills form healthy and lasting relationships.
  3. Pay attention. Don’t believe all you hear, spend all you have, or sleep all you want.
  4. Tell the truth. Only say “I love you” when you genuinely mean it: False promises lead to hurt feelings.
  5. Don’t make perfection your life’s goal. Knowing-it-all and having all-angles covered isn’t relatable and leads to loneliness. (see #1)
  6. When you hurt someone, apologize – and mean it. Bonus: Make amends in-person while looking the other person directly in-the-eye.
  7. Respond, don’t react. Slow-and-deliberate communication is most-impactful.
  8. Demonstrate kindness toward everyone and everything. Goodness inspires goodness and creates valuable synergy. Here’s one example.
  9. Never laugh at someone’s dreams. Having a positive-purpose is healthy regardless of the pursuit. Bonus: Avoid cynical people.
  10. Become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Doing so allows you to challenge your limitations, live expansively, and grow.
  11. Use language carefully. Snarky comments and character assassination are ego-driven and can demolish even long-term relationships within seconds. (see #7)
  12. Stop assuming, generalizing, and categorizing. Adopt the healthy practice of seeing others as unique individuals. Decide to explore their different perspectives instead of judging them (you may learn something).
  13. Communicate authentically, not impressively. Genuine communication is far more impactful than using words you perceive will garner applause. Life is an experience, not a test.
  14. Meet inappropriate questioning head-on with equal curiosity. Lean in and respond: “Why would you ask me that?”
  15. Recognize your sensitivities as strengths. Healthy adult vulnerability is called intimacy: It’s the stuff that glues us together and makes life more meaningful. (See #13)
  16. Say: “bless you” when someone sneezes. Also, acknowledge this kind-gesture when you’re the one sneezing, respond: “thank you.”
  17. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson. Significant advances often come from initial failures and the insight these mistakes teach us.
  18. Function from the “highest-sense” of who you are. You know the difference between right and wrong. Utilize the 3R’s: Respect, Regard, and Responsibility.
  19. Forgive. Don’t let minor disputes end great friendships. (see #11)
  20. Correct your errors. Update incorrect perspectives, don’t repeat them. (see #17)
  21. Befriend yourself. Spend some quality alone time. The longest relationship you will have is with yourself. Treat yourself like a treasured friend…

As a post-COVID world emerges, let’s set a goal of glowing a bit brighter by renewing and strengthening our social connections. May we come out of our widespread, yearlong “pause-button” with increased awareness, renewed grace, and strengthened resolve.

A Storybook Conclusion

“Fairies with gossamer wings, bring forth beauty, grace, and joyful things.

Fairies ask that you breathe in and appreciate the vantage point from which you stand,

then trod carefully and respectfully with each intentional step you make

across this beautiful land.”

– The Book of Simple Human Truths

I hope this list and poem inspire you to practice their messages – and pay them forward with a click of your email send-button: Just as mom would…