As we discuss in Brain Wash, interpersonal connection is a powerful way to improve your brain, as well as the general quality of your health and your life. But while meaningful connection with other people imparts myriad benefits, we’re increasingly pushing others away in favor of isolation and loneliness. This is a major global issue that we’ve got to change. In addition to the strategies for fostering interpersonal connection described in Brain Wash, here are 3 more ways to build bonds with others.
- Have conversations with strangers: Ok, we understand this one can seem daunting. For several reasons, talking to strangers can seem like a bad idea. But when we know that so many of us are looking to connect with others, chances are good that both you and the other person will benefit from the interaction. In a series of studies, researchers from the University of Chicago had participants talk to strangers on trains and buses or to refrain from interaction. The people who spoke to strangers reported more positive experiences. Use this data to your advantage, and make it a point to engage in a conversation with a stranger each day.
- Create a group buy-in for higher quality interaction: It’s no longer enough to simply spend time with those we care about. Even when we’re physically near our friends, family, and other loved ones, we’re prone to spend our time checking our phones, watching screens, or ruminating on the events of the past few days. One way to lower the impact of these distractions is to craft a conscious plan to improve the quality of the time spent with others. For example, consider a group agreement that cell phones will be left in a bowl, ringers off, in another room during meals. Make a pact to spend part of every interaction enjoying each other’s company, instead of fretting over recent stressors. Getting other people to participate in a plan to better your interactions is an amazing step towards closer bonds.
- Provide spoken words of appreciation: When going through the same routines each day, it’s challenging to remember all the wonderful gifts we gain from spending time with our close contacts. These are the people who help us through tough times, provide us with insight and contribute to the diversity of our perspectives and experiences. One great way to improve the strength of your bonds with others and to better appreciate the special people in your life is to actively thank them for what they do. This can be as simple as acknowledging a kind gesture or commenting on a positive personality trait.