In the last few years, I’ve given a lot of thought to the question: What makes one happy? I think there is a lot of variation, as each person is different, but there is at least one common thread. And that thread is good relationships.
I think that, on the whole, the people with the most meaningful relationships tend to also be the happiest.
Thus, it’s no surprise that, for example, people with social anxiety, who tend to have few or no friends and rarely go out, are often also diagnosed with depression. Loneliness is not only boring; it’s also detrimental to your mental wellbeing.
Most of us lack a proper map for what to look for regarding our social life. It’s not enough to go out and hang out with people. A social life needs to fit some criteria in order for it to be rewarding.
Therefore, I want to talk about what I deem as the three key ingredients of a fulfilling social life.
Yes, quantity is important. I don’t believe in having one friend. I also don’t believe in expecting your romantic partner to play all the important roles you want in your life: lover, collaborator, friend, mentor, therapist etc. You’re putting too much pressure on one single person.
The thing is that we have an array of similar but distinct social needs. We want companionship, but also romance, and fun, and deep conversation, and guidance, and support, and a massage at 2 AM in the night.
So the best way to go is to find a palette of people, each one with the ability to fulfill some of your needs. Typically, the more individuals you have in your social circle, the more of your social needs you can satisfy.
Obviously, quantity is not enough. You can know a lot of people, but if the dynamic of the relationships is not adequate, they don’t bring any perceptible value in your life, and vice versa. Quality is also key.
At a psychological level, the measurement of the reciprocal value two people bring into each other’s lives is something I like to call connection. A good relationship, in my book, is defined by a strong and rewarding connection.
This connection can be casual, romantic, sexual, emotional, intellectual, and so on, depending on the nature of the relationship. But it must be there. When you feel that connection interacting with a person, you know it’s a relationship worth having.
You want to have a social life with lots of people in it, but more importantly, with people you truly connect with. At the end of the day, you’re much better off with 10 strong interpersonal connections in your life than 100 barely manifest ones.
As a coach, a lot of the people I discuss with tell me they don’t enjoy socializing and interacting with others. As we explore this topic, what I discover almost every time is that they believe they must get the approval of others, and they act in a fake way during social interactions.
Well, when your social interactions are mostly about playing a role in order to get approval and avoid disapproval, of course you don’t enjoy them very much. Who enjoys being fake and on guard all the time?
This is why I see authenticity as a fundamental ingredient. The point it to behave in a genuine way around other people, instead of faking it. Thus, whatever connections you build with people, they are authentic and you can truly savor them.
I find it a lot more productive to meet lots of people, and hold on to those you genuinely connect with, instead of meeting a few people and clinging on to them no matter what. The later kind of relationships is simply not rewarding.
I always notice one common quality that all people with fulfilling social lives have. This quality is what allows them to bring quantity, connection and authenticity in their relationships with others.
And the quality is conversation confidence: the ability to engage others in a comfortable and genuine matter, without making excuses for who they are. With conversation confidence, you can interact with others easily, express yourself and simply unveil the relationships that are meant to be.
Next Tuesday, on September 13, I’m going to release Conversation Confidence: a 4.5 hours audio guide, based on scientific research on the psychology of confidence and my 5 years of experience as a coach.
If you want to be a confident conversationalist and have a rich, fun and fulfilling social life, this guide is the cornerstone. With its release, I’m also gonna launch some cool free bonuses, as well as another website and brand.
Stay tuned. Big things are coming.
Image courtesy of Lulz Photography