When I first became a bird owner, I noticed that my cockatiel Sunshine would only eat when someone was near her.
Most birds are flock animals; they rely on the members of their community for companionship, safety, and parenting.
In the wild, Sunshine would only eat with her flock members there to watch out for her.
Like many other animals, humans have an inborn need for community that is crucial to not only our survival but also to our mental health and happiness.
Not everyone needs 40 friends, but everyone needs someone they can rely on to help them through the harshness of life.
WHAT KEEPS US FROM BEING CONNECTED TO OTHERS?
- For some people, it’s depression. One of the key signs of depression is withdrawing from social situations. People who become depressed turn down invitations, fail to show up to gatherings, and limit phone calls and visits with friends.
- Other times, it can be a change in life — a move, divorce, death in the family, or illness. Many adults I’ve spoken to have said that when they graduated from high school or college they found they had a hard time making new friends in the ‘adult’ or working world.
- Many people are so afraid of rejection that they stay away from getting close to others.
HOW TO GET CONNECTED
- “Call me” cards — these are like business cards, but for handing out information to people you’d like to get to know or stay in touch with. There are “Mommy Cards” which state your name and your child’s name and contact information. People are also using business cards as a sort of calling card for when they meet people they would like to stay connected to. These can be as simple as your name and contact information and are easy to create on the internet.
- Find a group, and commit yourself to staying involved for at least 3 months. It can be a church choir, co-ed volleyball, a parenting group, or a support group. The internet makes it easy with websites like meetup.com. Make a point to introduce yourself to as many people as possible. If after 3 months you aren’t clicking with the members, keep looking.
- Volunteer. This is a great way to find people who share your passion. Volunteer Match is just one of many online organizations that helps volunteers find places that need help.
- Ask people questions about themselves. Most people enjoy talking about their work, family, or hobbies, and it’s an easy way to start a conversation. Be curious!
- Remember names. This can be a difficult one. Some people will write themselves brief notes on people they interact with so the next time they meet they can remember their names: Sarah – long brown hair, tall, twin boys. Brian – big guy, balding, married to Brianna, loud voice.
- Keep connected through Facebook or other social media. See if they’d like to get together for coffee or offer to trade babysitting. It may feel like you’re risking rejection, but you will never meet new people unless you reach out.
No matter what our age, ethnicity, or gender, we need each other for friendship and support. And while making new connections isn’t always easy, it is worth it.
In Part 2 of this blog post, I will examine how one group has changed thousands of lives by connecting disabled children and adults with athletes, and why connecting through social media can work to create long lasting and deep friendships.