There are lots of lonely people in the US. According to a study titled “Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks Over Two Decades“ that was published in 2006, one in four Americans have not a single person in their lives with whom they discuss “important matters.” And, more than half of Americans have not a single confidant that is outside of their family. This means that nearly half the population of the United States qualifies as “extremely isolated.”
Isn’t that sad? So, start conversations. Ask people what matters to them. Standing in line at the grocery store, walking your dog in the park, dropping your kid off at school…choose one person and start a conversation with him or her. This may not lead to deep and lasting friendship, but who knows; it certainly could!
Want a starting point? Here are a few ideas:
1. Induce a positive state by thinking of a recent, really great experience you had. Recall as much detail as you are able; tastes, smells, colors, sounds, feelings. Then, turn it up. Intensify the memory. Make it brighter, bolder, yummier! This will put you in a really great mood, and moods can be caught more easily than colds!
2. Ask questions that matter. Okay, don’t dive in with “How’s your love life?”, but what about “How’s your family?”, “How’s your life?”. Work slowly and gently towards questions like, “What do you want more than anything?”
3. If all else fails, you can talk about the study I sighted above, or talk about this column. Tell your new friends that this is a homework assignment that’s designed to spread the healing effects of connection!
During these conversations, stay attentive to your new friend. Listen deeply. Follow your gut. Rely upon your senses to tell you when to go deeper and when to back off a bit. Listen to your body. Listen with your body. Listen deeply to their bodies, and their words. And watch the results blossom.