What does it mean if you feel like you can't connect with people? There are a number of factors that might be at work, ranging from problems with social skills to poor past experiences with relationships.
Knowing how to connect with people is important for mental health and well-being. Connecting with others allows you to forge interpersonal relationships and helps prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness. Connecting with other people serves as a foundation for self-disclosure, bonding, attachment, closeness, intimacy, and love.
This article discusses what it means to connect with people and some of the reasons why you might find it difficult. It also explores some of the steps you can take to start building social and emotional connections with others.
What It Means to Connect With People
Connecting with other people can have a variety of meanings. It might refer to being able to form an emotional connection to another person, which involves a variety of subjective feelings that help form a bond between two people.
It can also refer more generally to social connections, which are defined as positive social relationships. According to the authors of one study, connecting with other people is a process that requires meaningful emotional interactions that are shared between individuals.
So how can you tell if you have a connection with others? Emotional connections are those that are positive, supportive, and healthy. They make you feel an affinity for another person, help you feel good about yourself, and allow you to open up and share parts of yourself with others.
Connecting with others involves creating an emotional and social bond. Such bonds can help people feel like they belong and promote both physical and mental wellness.
Why You Need to Connect With People
However you define it, these connections are important for physical and mental well-being. Being able to forge a connection with another person allows you to establish interpersonal relationships and build social support.
Connecting with others is something that's good for everyone but it's especially helpful for those who tend to isolate themselves from others. Social relationships help fend off the damaging effects of isolation and loneliness.
Creating social relationships is essential for creating a sense of belongingness.Belongingness is a basic human need that involves feeling accepted by others and connected to something outside of the self.
People who lack this sense of belongingness have been shown to be more susceptible to behavioral and mental health problems. Studies have found that those who feel that they belong are happier and less prone to anxiety, depression, hopelessness, and loneliness.
Research has found that people who lack social support have a greater risk for a variety of health problems including depression, alcohol use problems, and cardiovascular disease. People who struggle to connect with others and have weak emotional connections are even more likely to die at a younger age.
Being able to connect with people is vital for emotional health, but it also plays a critical role in supporting physical health and longevity. When we connect with others, we form bonds that can be very important for overall wellness.
Factors That Make It Difficult to Connect With People
If you are struggling to connect with people, there may be a number of different factors involved. Sometimes such feelings can be fleeting and related to changes in mood.
In other cases, feeling detached and unable to connect might be a sign of a more lasting problem. In order to overcome problems connecting to others, it is important to start by understanding the underlying causes that might be playing a role.
Lack of Social or Communication Skills
Feeling like you can't form a connection with other people can sometimes be related to problems with social or communication skills.
If the thought of making small talk with another person makes you cringe, getting past the introductory stages of a relationship in order to form a closer connection can be more of a challenge.
There are also other factors that can contribute to problems with communication. For example,poor self-esteem or a lack of confidence can sometimes impact social abilities in negative ways. In such cases, talking to a mental health professional may be beneficial.
Trauma can also play a role in making it hard to connect with people. If you've experienced trauma, particularly at a young age, it can sometimes make it difficult to trust others.
If you've endured abuse, betrayal, or bullying, for example, you might find it much more difficult to place your trust in new people in social situations.
Traumatic experiences can also contribute to other psychological problems that can interfere with your ability to make connections later on in life.
Mental Health Problems
A number of mental health disorders can also make it difficult to connect with others. For example, social anxiety disorder may cause people to avoid social situations and make it more challenging to get to know other people. It can also cause someone to struggle more with social interactions, which can prevent them from developing meaningful relationships.
Conditions That Might Play a Role
Mental health conditions that can make it more difficult to connect with people include:
- Anxiety disorders
- Attachment problems
- Low self-esteem
- Personality disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder
- Trust issues
Excessive Social Media Use
Unfortunately, connecting in the real world can be more challenging than ever. Increased technology use, social media, and telecommuting may keep us in constant digital contact, but excess internet use might also play a part in degrading our abilities to connect in more meaningful ways.
People often connect with others through shared interests, activities, or goals. The internet and social media can help facilitate these connections in some ways, but research has also found that excess online time may actually make forming real, consequential relationships more challenging at times.
If you find yourself always focusing on the negative in your relationships with other people, you might find yourself feeling disconnected from those around you. This may stem from having excessively high expectations for how others should behave, but it may also be caused by a general lack of empathy.
If you have a hard time understanding what others are feeling, you will likely find it more of a challenge to feel connected to them.
There are many factors that can affect how connected you feel to others. Your own social skills and empathy for others can play a part, but past negative experiences and mental health conditions can also be contributing factors
How to Connect With People
Fortunately, there are steps you can take that can help you build connections with other people. What works best for you may depend on what's causing your troubles. Building new skills can help, but in other cases, you may want to talk to a therapist to help resolve deeper issues that might be holding you back.
Meet New People
When you are having trouble connecting with others, your first instinct might be to retreat and try to avoid people altogether. Instead of engaging in this type of avoidance coping, make an effort to take part in activities that can help you meet new people.
Getting involved with things can help you find those who share similar interests and can help you overcome those social anxieties or feelings of emotional detachment that keep you from feeling connected to others.
Focus on being as open as possible and engaging in conversation with people you encounter throughout your day. Even something as simple as saying "hello" to others may help you feel more socially engaged.
Work on Your Communication Skills
Some people tend to come by these skills naturally. But if they don't come naturally for you, there are still things that can be learned and practiced in order to increase your ability to communicate better with others.
Strategies that can help you practice your communication skills include spending more time with others or even participating in groups designed to help foster speaking abilities. As your communication skills improve, you may find it easier to make genuine connections with others.
Spend Time With Loved Ones
Another strategy that can help is to spend more time with family and friends. It can be easy to become disconnected from others, particularly family members who you don't interact with frequently.
While it's normal for there to be an ebb and flow in your relationships with others, it is important to put in some effort from time to time in order to support and maintain your interpersonal relationships.
So make it a goal to spend more time with the people who already make up your social world. This can be a helpful way to reconnect and spend time building your relationships. Set aside some time every week that can be dedicated toward spending some time interacting, even if it’s just a quick chat on the phone.
Listen to Other People
Active listening is a way of positively engaging in conversation that focuses on paying attention to what people are saying, reflecting back on what they have said, and maintaining a non-judgmental attitude. This type of listening can have a positive effect on relationships. It may also help you feel more connected to the person you are listening to.
Try practicing active listening skills by making an effort to listen to other people and understand their points of view. Not only can it help you learn how to form new connections, but can also help you strengthen the ones you already have.
Talk to a Therapist
If your lack of connection is a result of a mental health problem, there are steps that you can take to get help. The first step is to talk to your healthcare provider or a therapist about what you are experiencing. They can then determine whether you might have a condition that interferes with your ability to interact with others.
A mental health professional can also help identify whether another problem such as low self-esteem might be contributing to your struggles. Your doctor or therapist can then recommend treatments that can help which may include talk therapy, support groups, or medications that can help you overcome these issues in order to better connect with other people.
Strategies that can help you connect with people include honing your listening skills, meeting new people who share your interests, and strengthening your existing relationships with friends and family. Talking to a mental health professional can also be beneficial.
A Word From Verywell
If you feel like you can't connect with people, it is important to explore the underlying causes. Negative social experiences and overreliance on social media can make it more difficult to feel emotionally linked to other people.
Sometimes a lack of connection might be related to the presence of a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression. You should talk to your healthcare provider or a therapist if you are experiencing symptoms that are concerning or making it difficult to function as you normally do in your daily life.