3 Tips To More Meaningful Relationships in 2021 (Part 6 of 6)
Just a few short days to go before 2021, everyone you know including yourself are getting ready to get up and leave to hopefully head to better days. This is the last instalment of the “6-Part Level Up Series”, we’ve talked about your nutrition, your productivity, your mental health and your career. Only the last one remains: your relationships.
Susan Pinker, in a TED Talk she gave last 2017, said that in a small island in Italy, there lives a handful of centenarians whose secret to living well over a hundred years is social interaction and the positive effects that comes off of it. According to her, “social isolation is the public health risk of our time”. Fast forward to this year’s pandemic, you are now told to limit your interaction with people and practice “social distancing” because it will literally save your life and that of others. The irony, right?
Everyone wants to live longer, but given the changing landscape - with social distancing and discouraged in-person interactions, how do we close the gap? How do we improve our relationships as we move closer to 2021? Here are 5 thoughts you can start to ponder on:
Aim for quality over quantity
Let’s do one very simple exercise; pick one social media platform that you most regularly use. Say, for example, Facebook. Go to your friends’ list and see how many Facebook friends you have. From that number, how many do you actually know in real life? From that number, how many have you actually spoken to or chatted with? From that number, how many would you actually say you’re friends with? And finally, how many of those “friends” would you actually call to share good/bad news with?
At this point in your life, you may have already come across a lot of people with whom you have built different levels of relationship with. Some may have continued to keep in touch with you through the years and despite the distance, while some have drifted away from you due to life and everything else in between. They’re just there in your friends’ list, occasionally commenting and liking your photos and posts and you only remember to send an online birthday greeting because of a Facebook reminder.
For 2021, try to “declutter” your online friends’ list so you can free up the virtual space for people who you really, genuinely want to hear from and want to be updated about. Don’t let your timeline get flooded by posts of people who only make you say “ugh” every time you see an update from them. Quality should always trump quantity, when it comes to friendships and meaningful connections. You don’t even have to unfriend them if you don’t want to risk hurting their feelings, just hit the “unfollow” button and you’re all set.
Surround yourself with people who are lovingly honest and lift you up
Almost everyone has that one friend who almost always has one (or more) negative thing to say about anything or anyone. You’d like to think (and hope) that they mean well but they always just manage to send a rain cloud all over your parade. Sometimes you ask yourself, “why am I even friends with this person??” and you just get lost on a reason why. They may be an old friend who seemed to be there all your life and a bit difficult to shake off already, or they can be a relative whose feelings will get hurt if you call them out.
For 2021, go through the people in your life with a fine-toothed comb and really see if you’ve been keeping people like this for company. Think about how many self-doubt sessions they’ve let you spiralled into, or how many of your accomplishments they’ve managed to belittle. Is this really the kind of people you want to spend your time with? The kind of people you’d want to make an effort for? The kind of thoughts you want to influence you? If your answer is no, then it’s time to keep your distance, limit your interactions, and let life run its course.
As you continue to find ways to improve yourself and your life, try to spend time with people who bring out the best in you - who lets you believe in yourself and strengthens your resolve. These people won’t lie to you when you’ve done something wrong, but when they call you out, you’ll know that they come from a place of love and concern.
Make digital connections meaningful
You may very well agree that nothing beats face-to-face interaction, however, given the current circumstances, it may not be a healthy option to interact in person with a large number of people just yet. While waiting for things to normalize so more people can go out and have face-to-face meals with actual people you only see through their online avatars, try to make do with what you have.
Since almost every one of your friends has Facebook or Instagram (or any social media sharing site), why not make the most out if it? Don’t stop with just “liking” a friend’s post, make the connection more meaningful by asking them how they are, how they’ve been doing and using the topic they posted as a jump-off point for a more in-depth conversation privately. Check-in with people and see how they are doing, you might be surprised with the kind of conversations you can have just by asking people how they’ve been.
Social media, although sometimes painted as the bad guy, has its benefits - it allows people to connect, share and it is a platform for conversations and information. When you’ve freed your virtual space from connections you don’t really care for and all that’s left are people who are important to you, watch how your use and perception of social media change.
In areas where face-to-face interactions are still discouraged, host digital “movie nights” with friends or organize online game and quiz nights for people close to you as an online alternative to “hanging out”. It may not be the same as chatting over a few beers in your local bar, but it might just bridge that social interaction craving you’ve been having, if only for the time being.
You have to remember that like anything alive, your relationships need nurturing for it to grow. This nurturing requires effort, and this effort has to be mutual. The people you want in your life should want you in theirs as well. While you make an effort to strengthen your side of things, remember that it has to be reciprocated for it to work.
No man is an island, so they say. And while you may have moments in your life when you just want to be alone with your thoughts, you’ll always have moments when you want someone to be there. Life becomes infinitely easier when you know someone has your back. It’s up to you to make space for them in your life.
2021 is ready, and with your mindset game strong, so are you. What are you waiting for?