8 Ways to Build Stronger Connections

What does it mean to build connections, and how do we do it? 

Most people believe that love, intimacy, and social connection are more important than fame, wealth, and even physical health when compared to their happiness​ (Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008). Our intuition is correct because loneliness represents one of the most significant threats to our physical health. Loneliness can impact our health as much as a lack of exercise, obesity, or smoking (Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008).

So, what exactly does it mean to be “socially connected”? Is it the number of people you know? Is it your perceived closeness to the other people in your life? Or is it the number of quality relationships you have? The answer might surprise you… It combines all these things (Holt-Lunstad, Robles, & Sbarra, 2017).

So when it comes to building connections, our goal is not simply to meet more people and increase our connections. Our goal is to find people who make us feel good about ourselves, less lonely, and well-supported. Then, we must put in the effort to make the most of these relationships, so they stay strong and healthy. Moreover, luckily, just as we can eat healthier and exercise to boost our health, there are things we can do to combat loneliness and feel more socially connected.

How to Build Connections

Friends. Let us start by developing and strengthening our connections with friends or colleagues. Ask yourself, is there a friend you would like to spend more time with? Is there a friendly co-worker you would like to get to know better? Building connections with people you already know personally can be an easy way to start feeling more socially connected.

Family. For those who feel close to their families—or want to feel closer—it can be worth trying to talk more often. Even if you live far away (my parents live 12000 miles from me, and my children live on the South Island of New Zealand, while I live on the North, so I am talking from experience here), you could schedule a phone or video chat with a parent or sibling. Alternatively, you could aim to plan a future holiday together to have occasional meaningful experiences together.

Strangers. Research shows that even small interactions with strangers benefit our well-being (Sandstrom & Dunn, 2014). So do not hesitate to talk to someone in the cue at the supermarket, chat with the barista at the coffee shop, or even ask for directions.

Groups. If we identify with a religion, joining a religious event may be helpful. Alternatively, we can get to know our neighbours, join a Meetup group to engage in a hobby we enjoy, go to local events to meet new people, or volunteer to meet like-minded individuals.

Strengthening Connections

In addition to building a more significant number of connections, it is essential that we actually feel connected to the people we spend time with. Moreover, how we interact with people directly affects how connected we feel to them. This is why effective interpersonal communication can be essential. Here are some strategies.

  1. Use active listening. Active listening involves being genuinely present when another person is talking. Nodding, reinforcing what they say, and focusing on them are vital actions. Avoid letting your mind wander to other things or what you will say next. 
  2. Cultivate empathy. Empathy involves mentally and emotionally putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. See if you can understand what their situation would be like from their perspective. 
  3. Be honest. Warm, trusting relationships are built on honesty. So be sure to tell the truth and share your true self with those with whom you want to build connections.
  4. Use emotion regulation. Managing your emotions is critical to working through difficulties with those you care about. 
  5. Pay attention to nonverbal cues. People say a lot with their body language. So paying attention to what others tell you with their nonverbal cues can help you communicate well. For example, if someone is looking around a lot or backing away from you, they might be ready to leave the conversation.
  6. Share your stories. Self-disclosing personal information (a little bit at a time) can help others feel closer to us. So it can be helpful to use self-disclosure to improve your connections.
  7. Try loving-kindness meditation. Loving-kindness meditation is a type of meditation where we imagine sending love to others. It can help strengthen our skills of compassion, kindness, and love.
  8. Gratitude journaling. Writing a gratitude journal or list can help us appreciate the connections we have and, as a result, bring our best selves to our social interactions.

In Sum

Building strong social connections may be one of the best things we can do to improve our health and well-being. Although there are many ways to do it, they do not always come easy in our “island unto yourself” world. So taking one step at a time can be an excellent way to slowly but surely feel more connected. 


  • Cacioppo, J. T., & Patrick, W. (2008). Loneliness: Human nature and the need for social connection. WW Norton & Company.
  • Holt-Lunstad, J., Robles, T. F., & Sbarra, D. A. (2017). Advancing social connection as a public health priority in the United States. American Psychologist, 72(6), 517.
  • Sandstrom, G. M., & Dunn, E. W. (2014). Is efficiency overrated? Minimal social interactions lead to belonging and positive affect. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5(4), 437-442.

Sharon Tomkins

Sharon is a New Zealand qualified Health Coach and Personal Trainer, as well as an ICF Certified Coach and Accredited Coaching Supervisor. Sharon was awarded the 'Health & Wellness Coach of the Year' 2022, by The Health Coaches Australia & New Zealand Association.
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