Why You Struggle to Connect With Others

train station

In this day and age, it’s quite apparent that people are connecting everywhere. From the local pub to the cafe across the street, from the stands at the little league baseball field to one of the seemingly infinite number of online chat rooms, people are constantly connecting with each other.

Gone are the days of never talking to strangers. Gone are the days when people proclaimed that all chat rooms are dangerous. Gone are the days when your social circle was limited to your coworkers around the water cooler.

Thanks to our advances in communication, we can connect with whomever we want from wherever we want. If you so choose, you can have friends from all over the world while never stepping foot outside your front door (editor’s note: not recommended).

However, when connecting is such an easy thing to do, why is it that some people still find it hard (and almost scary) to take part in? Why do some people still hold “never talk to strangers” as their mantra?

I personally believe it is because of these three big reasons:

1. News and media

As a kid growing up, there wasn’t a day I watched TV that there wasn’t an announcement of something horrible. Titles similar to “BREAKING NEWS: KIDNAPPER ON THE LOOSE” or “INTERNET PREDATOR STRIKES AGAIN” would normally pop up across the screen. While it’s important to know what’s going on the world, these messages made it seem like the only way to avoid instances like this are to stop going out at night and stay out of every online community.

2. Overbearing Parents

Parents play a big part in our ability to connect with others, and overprotective ones tend to hinder that ability. Overbearing parents tend to keep their children close to them (partly due to the risk touched upon in the first point) and are always ready to retort their child’s plea for adventure with the remark, “You’re too young to understand.” In effect, this implants in their minds a certain misconception that you have to be a certain age before you can make your own decisions, even on things that require you to break out of your comfort zone.

3. Fear of rejection

Rejection is one of the main reasons people don’t just get out there and start connecting. They think if they let themselves become transparent (letting people see the ‘real’ them), they’ll be exiled and condemned as a weirdo. This leads people to falsely believe that the only people who could ever truly understand their ‘real’ selves are themselves.

How do we fix these problems and start connecting?

The solution to all of these problems is quite simple really: all you have to do is take fate into your own hands.

In each of the problems I’ve listed above, you’re giving the power of owning your fate into the control of someone else. In the first scenario, it’s the news and media, in the second, it’s your parents, and in the third, it’s to just about everybody else.

You have to take charge of your life: you have to connect. I doubt people who’ve lived the best lives stayed in the same place for too long or talked to the same people forever. They broadened their horizons and added a little diversity into the mix.

They risked rejection and put themselves out there.

You’re not a kid anymore. The outdated saying of ‘never talk to strangers’ doesn’t apply. Talk to the ones you resonate with, and pass by the ones you don’t.

It’s never too late to start connecting with others, but if you keep waiting until you’re 100% comfortable connecting, it just might be.

Photo by James Jordan

31 thoughts on “Why You Struggle to Connect With Others”

  1. I think it’s easier to connect with “anybody” via the internet. With social media becoming our future, people are more likely to connect from their home, rather than stepping outside and meeting somebody in person.

    This is still a problem as I often see this in public. Fear of rejection is only a state of mind and if we adopt a habit that fear is always going to be a part of us, then it will be easier to connect with people that we are afraid of.

    There is also a good book I read back in college by David Wygant. It’s a dating book but also talks about just meeting strangers in general. It’s called, “Always Talk to Strangers”.

    1. @Tristan Lee,

      You’re spot on, Tristan. We need to push this fear of connecting and fear of rejection aside. If we continue on this path, we’ll miss out on getting to know people who are just like us. Long lasting relationships can be found anywhere, both on- and offline.

      I’m glad you read that book. Now I guess you have no problems connecting at all :)

  2. Interesting post. I have to say that I haven’t found many people welcoming into their larger social circles.

    I’m friendly with everyone I meet from cashiers to fellow commuters, but I can’t say that it’s always returned.

    In another example, we recently started attending a church and offered to join a supper group but were told that by the first group had to “hold a vote” to decide if they would allow us to attend. The second group told us they didn’t want anyone in their group that had kids because they’d just redecorated.

    When our neighbors moved in, I always took food and welcomed them to the neighborhood. We became ostracized, however, when we supported a political issue that our older neighbors did not, and they didn’t hesitate to tell us in colorful language why we were wrong. Except for one family on the street, no one acknowledges us now.

    Personally, I find that people are more polarized, cynical and insular. The lack of civility is a hot topic in editorials. We vilify those who don’t agree with us.

    We’re Baby Boomers so I hope this is a generational issue that’s passing away with the next generation. Is it just me?

    1. @Lisa,

      I can’t believe this! What is wrong with the world today? I’m so sorry that you had to put up with the close-mindedness of others. I can tell you’re a very special person and that this world needs more people like you. Some people these days are just suspicious of kindhearted individuals like you because they think there is some hidden ulterior motive behind good actions.

      Whether you’re a baby boomer or not, the responses you were given were uncalled for. I say bravo to you , Lisa for connecting in the kindest of spirits. Don’t let people like your neighbors fool you into thinking the rest of the world is like them.

      People here on the Change blog accept you for who you are. Thanks for your comment and I hope I could help you.

  3. You’ve got some great points here about connecting in public. I ride public transportation and sometimes it amazes me how many people are there for the long, same ride, yet don’t speak a word to each other, and barely smile.

    Yet we’re all human beings, though in different shapes and sizes, we’re all riding that train together. We share something so common between us, yet most people look around and see differences. Everyone seems so wrapped up in their own thoughts yet no one is reaching out to connect, even for just a moment.

    And we’re all there, human and connected.

    It’s tough sometimes to get people to come out of their shells with all the defenses they’ve built up as you mentioned. Smiling is a great start, though. I try to remember to smile at people, and sometimes, that is enough…

    1. Great thoughts, Serenity Hacker! I know what you mean. I used to take the bus to campus and it would sometimes be so hard to start conversations because the atmosphere would be so tense.

      As you said, we’re all human. It is our differences that make us who we are. And instead of always being wrapped up in our own affairs, we should share them with one another.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Serenity Hacker! I hope you’re the one giving out the smiles the next time you get on the bus!

  4. I agree that the 3 things you listed above have the potential to contribute to struggles in adult lives. If we soak up feelings of vulnerability from the news media, our parents, or other sources, we become fearful. And fear has never done anything positive for anyone.

    1. @Nea Your exactly right! We may not be invincible (we are human after all) that doesn’t mean we should seal ourselves away from the world. We aren’t hermits, we need to connect in order to survive. Not only that, more importantly, we need to connect in order to thrive and live happily.

      I’m glad you found my post enjoyable :)

  5. Hi John .. I quite often talk to people, not always – if I’m in a place where I don’t need to be doing something (eg the bus, or the train), but can just get gather my thoughts – quite nice!

    However all people we meet – we need to be with them at their level, sharing their interests, their culture, learning from them if appropriate, and being polite – some definitely won’t match up and then one just smiles and stops or move on. Some really enjoy the interaction.

    Lisa’s comments can reflect and I’ve experienced similar – but having learnt that lesson .. I just blend in .. and don’t jump in – wait and see how things develop and sometimes I’m so pleased I didn’t make that move – as I’m sure I’d experience Lisa’s rather unfortunate experiences. Sometimes being neutral, especially when you’re new, letting others ‘work’ you and your family out .. makes life easier.

    One of the recommendations on posting on others’ blogs is to comment and join the community, but bide your time .. til others notice you .. probably true in life –

    Interesting post – thanks –
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

    1. @Hilary,

      I understand what you mean, both you and Lisa. But bidding your time and waiting for people to notice you will get you no where. Lisa may have had difficult experiences, but that doesn’t change the person who she is now. If anything she is stronger because of them.

      Being neutral may make life easier, but it also makes life boring. Take a chance and reach out. Rejection is a part of life. It is through difficulty that we learn the most. The only way you can escape it is if you’re nothing and completely forgettable.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Hilary. I hope you’ve learned something :)

      1. @John, Hi .. oh yes at times I’m up front! But occasionally especially with people and community relationships a little easing in, is probably better than alienating them, or being cut off ..

        I always try to learn from others’ comments and posts – thanks Hilary

        1. @Hilary, I see what you’re saying. Of course you shouldn’t rush in. Relationships take time to grow, but you won’t have one if you don’t strike up a conversation.

          Ease in, Hilary, and good luck connecting!

  6. Steven of Chicago

    I believe people today are more interested in connecting with their technology than connecting with people.

    1. @Steven of Chicago,

      Great observation, Steven! Technology has put so much of a barrier between us that we forgot the people who use them (such as you behind the screen). If there was a choice between chatting with you online, and meeting you face to face, I’d pack my bags in a heartbeat :)

      Thanks for your insights, Steven!

  7. Hey John.

    That sure is true about fear of rejection or feeling like you’re not going to be up to par to what others expect. We have to put aside these thoughts of what others expect, or what they will think of us, because we miss out on opportunities when we get stuck thinking about those thoughts. We look back on how we could have communicated with certain folks months ago, and missed the opportunity, and how it could have helped us a lot if we had put aside our thoughts of what they would think.

    I have to put aside any hesitations based on this thinking, as hindsight says that it is worthless.

    Thanks for the worthwhile material that helps us connect when we should be connecting.

    1. @Armen Shirvanian,

      Good to see you here, man. It’s funny how much value we place on the thoughts of others when in reality, everyone is scared of what everybody thinks of them. I’ve made this mistake before actually – if I’d just smiled to that certain person, maybe we could’ve been friends.

      Hesitation breeds fear, while action fuels courage.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Armen!

      P.S. I saw your first video on Timeless Information. Congrats!

  8. Hi, John –

    A wise person once told me that the best way to get over not feeling welcome is to take steps to cause someone else to feel welcome — even if you are the newbie in the group. In other words, find the person who looks the least comfortable and go talk to him or her.

    It sounds like you are saying a version of the same . . . great post!

    – Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

    1. @Marie,

      Hey Marie! Nice to meet you :)

      That’s really great advice. Talking to someone who shares the same feeling as you – it connects you. That feeling of shyness isn’t yours alone. It just takes a little less shyness to be able to introduce yourself and break the ice.

      Thanks for sharing this, Marie – I’ll always remember it.

  9. There are so many levels to connecting with others. Most of our ability to truly connect is learned from a very young age. We learn this from how our primary caretaker was able to connect in general and connect to us in particular. As adults, our job is to take charge by way of healing whatever wounds from what was lacking or overbearing from our childhood wounding. Yes, I certainly agree that the news can put much fear into the air around everything.

    Dr. Jennifer Howard

    1. @Dr. Jennifer Howard,

      Hey Jennifer! I’m glad you found interest in my post! I admit that my initial thoughts on connecting were based on the “never talk to strangers” mindset. Now I’ve learned so much about the world. Talk to those who resonate with you and your message.

      Our childhood days are long gone, and it’s time that we used the wisdom we’ve gained as adults to erase the naivete we had in the past.

      P.S. I think this the first time a doctor has read one of my posts! Thanks for your comment :)

  10. This is an interesting post.

    Here is my point of view:
    Since young, we learn most of the stuff from the people around us especially from our parents. Sometimes we may need to spend some time looking at the past experiences that have impacted us.

    my friend shared with me a theory based on the unique fingerprint (dermatoglyphics) which reflects our genetic characteristic. Before we look at the surface why we don;t connect well, i think it would be more beneficial why we behave in a unique fashion based on our genetic blueprint.
    Just to quote some examples, some people tend to be more easy going and blend well into the environment; while some people tend to be more stubborn/ persistent and like to ask a lot of questions; some people are what we call Mr/Mrs reverse who have the great ability to look at things from different perspective. This last group of people is the most interesting people as they are good at pointing out things that people can;t usually see. So this is poorly managed, people may find them as annoying or challenging.

    So what i am driving at is everyone is unique and there is nothing right or wrong in the above traits. It all depends on how we manage it and adjust to blend into the environment

    1. @Art,

      Hey Art, nice to hear your thoughts. While I do agree (wholeheartedly) that everyone is unique, that doesn’t mean we can’t connect. Sure it may be harder for some to connect than others, but that doesn’t mean that the ones who have it harder shouldn’t connect at all.

      Can you really survive without someone to connect with?

      For those of us who want to blend in, go for it. If that’s what you want. But regardless of what you want, you should connect, connect, and connect some more.

      Thanks for your input :)

  11. Hi,
    I’ve been meditating for 6 months now. I’m more centered and calm because of it.
    It’s been said over and over how good it is. It really is a simple idea. But our ego’s make it difficult to enforce. Great post. Good to see you here.

    1. @Tess The Bold Life,

      Glad you could make it :)

      Connecting to the world is just as important as connecting to people. Do both and you’ll be much better off.

      Thanks for enjoying the post.

  12. I guess for me, I have a fear of rejection. When I am out in public and someone smiles at me, I do return the favor, but I’m usually afraid to take it further. For the most part, it seems everyone has their set number of friends or circle and there is no room for me. At least that’s how it feels sometimes. I’m soon to be 31 and the my days of making friends have passed! That ship has sailed.

    1. Hey Carla, I don’t think that’s true. Sure, it may be harder to make friends now because you’re older and have more responsibilities, but it doesn’t mean you can’t change who you are. You can still make friends. Just introduce yourself to people you share common interests with. In my opinion, it’s easier to approach someone when you know you’ll never see them again if the interaction doesn’t work out.

      There are billions of people on the planet. Take those chances and reach out to them. There is ALWAYS another chance to make a lifelong friend. Step a little bit out of your comfort zone and you’re sure to be rewarded. Trust me.

      All you have to do is try :)

  13. I have found most people too busy to connect with someone new, or their social life is already full. As an introvert, the small-talk many seem to enjoy doesn’t feel like connecting to me. It would take me several interactions with someone before opening up on any kind of real level would feel appropriate. But extroverts only give a very small, limited amount of time in the beginning.

    I think connecting with others would be easier for everyone if we had courses in how to actively listen. So many people are starved for someone to listen to them, and they end up talking over others. Or, we regard listening as somehow passive (why?). It would be helpful if young people could receive some kind of communication training in school so everyone would know at least the basics. Whew! For an introvert I sure have rambled a bit, well nice talking to you.

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