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Creating bonds require being willing to be vulnerable

Human beings are social animals. We have evolved this way due to the fact that in our ancient past there was safety in numbers. Being part of the group was helpful in such tasks as hunting and gathering food and fighting off predators. Our brains have evolved to produce feel good chemicals when we engage in bonding type activities. Here are some ways we can build bonds with friends, coworkers, partners, et cetera. You must, however, make sure that the method you are using is appropriate to the person and circumstances.

Appropriate touch is a great way to build bonds with people. You must tailor the type of touching to the situation and person with whom you are dealing. However, touch can release bonding chemicals in the brain that feel really good for people called oxytocin. One caveat is if you know you are dealing with someone with a trauma history, they may prefer a hands off approach or limited physical contact such as no hugs, handshakes only. Another is that certain kinds of touch is not appropriate in certain situations. One does not necessarily begin a business meeting with a colleague with a hug and a kiss, but when seeing your partner at the end of the day, that would be an appropriate response.

Conversation is another great way to strengthen bonds with people in your life. And even better if you can do so around a common interest or recently relevant topic. Even just sharing what is going on in your day or how you are feeling can create a connection with somebody. Talking about your struggles or your passions, or about your history can be a way to open up to somebody and find out if they have been through things similar to you. You never know who might have similar life experiences and it can show up in very different packages. I had this experience at church with a friend of mine. On the surface the two of us could not have been more different: born decades apart, in different parts of the US, different races, different denominations as young people, but we had so much in common below the surface it was positively eerie. The caveat here is to tailor the subject matter to the situation. You are not going to share your deepest, darkest secrets with a casual work colleague. However that might be appropriate with a very close friend during a serious discussion. You need to gauge your audience.

We can also leverage technology to help create bonds with others. Phone calls, texting, Zoom, and keeping up with far away friends and relatives via social media can be a wonderful resource. And we can use it as a way to initiate and schedule in person interactions in situations where that is possible.

Most of all, to create bonds you have to be willing to be vulnerable. Touch, communication, opening yourself to new people, all of these involve a level of vulnerability that may seem strange at first, particularly if you are not used to it. However, you can become acclimated to the experience and possibly even learn to like it. You just need to be respectful of other people’s boundaries and match your approach to the person and the situation at hand.

By Julie Morse

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