Everyone deserves to feel connected and valued by those around them. Fundamentally, it’s something we all need and crave.
For some, navigating friendships and relationships can be a confusing maze. We find it difficult to connect with others because of our unique abilities, experiences or world views. Sometimes, we need a little support from someone who cares about us to help make that maze a little less confusing.
Contexts for connection
Whilst human connection can feel like a very natural, organic thing that happens completely on its own, it’s something that can also be carefully and intentionally supported, too. Whether you’re in a paid support role or you’re caring for someone who is keen to get out there and meet new people, there are things you can do as a supporter and cheerleader to encourage a greater and more meaningful connection to community for someone in your life.
There are so many different ways to think about how to support the chances of connection in someone’s life. One of our favourites is this simple framework developed by our mate Janet Klees. It’s based on the idea that for connections to have the best chance of forming, we need ‘Four Pillars’ to be present in a social situation. It’s not enough to just show up and hope for the best; We need to be intentional.
Janet says we need to be present…
With other people who share our passions and interests…
… in an open, welcoming social context…
… on a regular, routine, frequent basis…
… in a role that gives us the opportunity to contribute in a way that is both unique and personally meaningful to us, and valued and appreciated by others in the group.
Often, we find that it is the fourth pillar that is missing, and this significantly decreases the opportunity for a meaningful relationship to spark and grow. Contrary to popular belief, connection doesn’t arise just through being with others with shared interests – It’s the mutually-meaningful contributions we make to others in these situations that are the process through which the seeds of connection are sown.
An exercise you can do alongside someone you’re supporting is to understand who they really are, what really matters to them, what they’re trying to achieve and what they’re looking for. Then, grab a pen and paper and together, list all of their passions, hobbies and interests (e.g. they love dogs!), and map out all the different ways they currently engage with those interests.
List everything, from ‘dog owner’ to ‘member of a dog-lovers Facebook group as it’s all relevant and unique to that person. Together, analyse those activities and see which of those four key pillars are present, and which are missing. Where you might find one pillar missing for a particular situation, have a conversation on how the activity could be changed so that all four pillars are present, and what kinds of support or encouragement might be required to help that person feel confident in that situation.
This is just one small, yet powerful framework, you and the person you’re supporting can think about… but really, there are hundreds of ways out there to think about how to spark and nurture a new friendship. And at the core of all of them is meaningful contribution and connection. Supporting someone on their personal mission of connectedness is about helping them consider their passions and all their unique gifts and strengths that make them, uniquely them. It’s about working alongside them to consider the many ways they can contribute those things to others in a way that’s personally meaningful and socially valued.
Help someone you know connect into The Befriend Social Network
If you know someone who is looking to do local things with local people, you may want to share information about The Befriend Social Network! It’s the friendliest community in Perth for people to sweeten their social life with a fun shared experience with others. There’s all kinds of groups and gatherings hosted by local people, from board game nights to arts and crafts, visits to art galleries to picnics by the river, so with some luck, they’ll find something that takes their fancy! We’d also love to hear about any ideas they might have to bring people together, and support them to bring their community creativity to life.
Oh, and needless to say, you would also be very welcome to join the person you’re supporting at any event with The Befriend Social Network, because hey, you can never experience too much connection in life!
Online connection is just another space for community
There’s no doubt that humans need face-time. We value eye contact and we love to see those little sparks of connection fly when we laugh together at a silly joke, or listen to a story intently.
But, in today’s increasingly digital world, the internet has become a powerful tool for connection, too. In fact, we view it as just another arena in which community life can play out! Online groups and gatherings are a great way to spark new friendships and share your passions with like-minded people. Whether it’s online gaming, forums, Zoom catch-ups or digital events, the internet can be a great space to nurture friendships with like-minded people and connect with others.
We’ve created a helpful walk-through of a few of the little things to consider about finding and attending online groups which you may find useful to pass on to someone or flick through yourself.
Ultimately, connection is a deeply personal thing, and it will look different for everyone! But there are so many things you can do, as a supporter, friend, or family member, to help someone you care about design and engage in the contexts where meaningful relationships are much more likely to happen.