Human beings are social creatures. In order to have successful relationships with others, it’s essential to form healthy, emotional connections. “Most of us grow up without ever learning what an emotion is, how to honor it, or how to feel it successfully,” which can make it challenging to connect with others on an emotional level, says Psychology Today writer and author Raphael Cushnir. As long as you remain open to the process of learning to emotionally connect with others, you’ll build substantive and lasting relationships.
1. Connect with your Own Emotions
Cushnir suggests we learn to feel and connect to our own emotions to understand their origins and improve our overall quality of life. When we’re willing to acknowledge and accept our emotional selves, we can connect with others without feeling ashamed of our emotions or feeling the need to hide them from others. Difficult emotions are typically the ones that people tend to steer clear of, but Cushnir suggests getting in touch with these emotions as they arise. For instance, if you meet a new romantic interest and notice fear or resistance on your part, allow yourself to feel the fear so you can determine its origins. You may notice that your hesitance comes from fear that your new partner will have trouble connecting with your children or fear of experiencing heartbreak.
2. Spend Time with Others
Spending time engaged in activities with others is another way to build an emotional connection with them. If you are looking to make new friends with some of the mothers at your child’s daycare or school, make an effort to attend social functions organized by your child’s school and introduce yourself to other parents. Invite a parent out for coffee to discuss relevant issues at the school or set up a play date so the kids and parents can get to know each other. Keep in contact with other parents either by phone or weekly meetups. The more you interact with other parents and engage in meaningful activities together, the more opportunities you create to bond with them and potentially develop an emotional connection based on mutual respect and friendship.
3. Open Communication
When trying to connect with others emotionally, open communication requires you to be as emotionally transparent as possible. When looking to strengthen the emotional connection between yourself and a mate, the website TwoOfUs.org suggests that couples – married ones in particular -- discuss topics including their expectations of marriage, approaches to child discipline and money matters. When difficult emotional matters arise, it’s important to have the emotional maturity to acknowledge and accept these emotions just as you would your own, and address them openly and honestly with your partner. Use healthy communication skills to express your emotions, such as not blaming your partner for the way you feel or cutting your partner off when he's trying to express himself. This kind of communication strengthens the emotional bond between the two of you and also increases trust and understanding within the relationship.
4. Show Empathy
Empathy is the “ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives and to use that understanding to guide our actions,” says Roman Krznaric, an empathy adviser to organizations including Oxfam and the United Nations. When attempting to connect emotionally with a mate or one of the parents at your child’s school, it’s important to show empathy when your emotional support is needed. If your partner vents to you about how difficult his day has been, provide a listening, non-judgmental ear and avoid giving him advice unless he requests it. If a mother shares personal information with you, be there for her and offer to help in any way that you can. Offering to keep your friend’s child while she takes some time to herself is a great way to empathize with a friend’s difficulties as it shows that you're anticipating her needs.