How we can maintain the connections we’ve built throughout isolation
The period in lockdown has been a challenge in many ways, hasn’t it? That said, it has also provided an opportunity for many to reflect and review our general life patterns; what matters most to us, what we want and don’t want in our life, as well as considering those connections that are important to us.
I’ve personally reflected a lot recently on the balancing act that we have in keeping those important connections and relationships, and yet finding them a challenge to maintain due to other expectations, or when the unexpected happens.
As we know, life is not a constant – change is inevitable. However, does this change mean our connections have to become worse? Does it mean we should be more fearful of our emotional state and be concerned if we don’t feel as connected as we once did with those special people in our lives?
It’s a great time to consider how we can feel more connected, particularly as some of our circumstances are beginning to change again, along with our life patterns post-lockdown.
Here are a few tips that either I have found useful to remember, or I know have worked for clients that I serve, as a way to help us feel connected to those important people around us.
Tip #1: Recognise that change is inevitable – but connection is still possible!
One thing we can be sure of is that nothing stays the same. The idea of change can often fill us with dread, reluctance, fear and worry. In the context of our connections, we might start to question if things are as good as we thought they were.
As with the inevitably of change, our feelings of connection with others will go through peaks and troughs. A consideration that I’d invite you to give time to is – does it really mean that our connection with that special person has got better or worse?
Do we need to take our doubts so seriously? Could it be that our connection has just evolved? Do we need to question it at all? If there is a shift in our connection with someone, this is normal.
If we recognise that change is inevitable and, therefore, know that our connections will continue to evolve, this is a healthy, emotional state to be coming from.
We can innocently place expectations on what our connection should be or base it on what it was in the past, which in itself can lead us to question the connection and create a problem that might not be there. I’ve seen it many times when working with people who are experiencing relationship challenges.
There is no judgement with what I’ve just said. In fact, I’ve also done this myself!
In context to our possible changing life patterns right now, where one person might have less availability; by recognising that this change was inevitable at some point, it might just take the pressure off a little bit.
As our life patterns continue to evolve again, perhaps our own expectations might need to shift again.
Tip #2 – Communicate from a place of acceptance
Acceptance is a powerful word, isn’t it? And it can easily be misused. Alongside Tip #1, if we’re accepting of change, it leaves us more open, trusting and better able to adapt and embrace.
All these things are important for a connection to be maintained and also for it to grow and deepen.
One thing I find most fascinating is this – our ability to be accepting is natural. Our ability to embrace change is natural.
It is our thinking about the meaning of change, for example, which can often lead to us innocently communicate from a place of being fearful; reluctance; resentment; rejecting the change; being hesitant or less willing.
This is particularly important because if we are accepting of our changing circumstances and expectations, as well as showing an understanding of others’ expectations of us, we’re more likely to communicate clearly and positively. For example, we might start sentences with ‘I’ve noticed’ or ‘could we’, as opposed to an accusatory ‘you haven’t’ or ‘you should’.
Tip #3 – Allow our natural connection with others to come through
We connect with people naturally and it happens when it is meant to happen.
I can certainly relate to times when I’ve tried to force a connection – or rather keep a connection going with someone based on the way our friendship was previously – say one year, two years or five years ago. Perhaps you can too.
I believe this is common and, through listening to the clients that I serve, I know I’m not the only one to have done this.
That said, our period in isolation has led to many of us communicating more with our closest friends; speaking more with our distant and extended family members, or even been drawn to wanting to reconnect with old contacts.
For me, this is nature. There is nothing to ‘force’ with our natural connections; nothing to ‘keep working on’ as such, it’s just natural.
So, we never know, it could be three to six months before we speak again with someone who we had reconnected with during isolation. However, when we do, isn’t it better to have that natural connection with them, where it feels like ‘we had only spoken yesterday’ compared to having a series of force and unnatural connections that don’t really mean anything?
In a similar message to Tip #2, as our circumstances change again, a mutual understanding will guide our respect for each other. It will also drive our willingness to stay connected, as well as steering our communication to find common ground conversations.
Dave Knight is a life coach and host of the podcast The Sunday Settler.