Goodbye Lonely: 5 Steps to (Re)Connecting
Posted on August 15, 2010 by Shannon Short, One of Thousands of Life Coaches on Noomii.
Connecting, I thought, is the opposite of isolation, and if it’s the opposite of isolation, then surely it’s also the solution.
When I was asked me to write an article on women and feelings of isolation, I thought “What do I know about that?” As I spent time with the topic, I kept coming back to the words “connect” and “connection.” What I realized was that connecting is exactly what I had been focusing on for the last few months. More specifically, I was making a conscious effort to connect — to myself, others and the world — to resolve my own feelings of alone-ness.
Connecting, I thought, is the opposite of isolation, and if it’s the opposite of isolation, then surely it’s also the solution. One study I read suggested that the opposite of isolation is belonging — that to no longer feel isolated, one must feel a sense of belonging. I don’t think it’s that complicated, that deep — at least, not necessarily. So here’s my theory: women who feel isolated need to connect — or reconnect. It’s as simple as that.
What is it for you — that thing that keeps you disconnected? Do you work from home fulltime? Did you just move to a new city or town where you don’t know anyone? Maybe you have recently (or not so recently) lost a spouse or become an empty-nester? Or maybe you have loads of people around you and somehow feel disconnected anyway?
Here are two things I have seen repeatedly as key factors in lack of connection for women who feel isolated or alone. See if you can relate.
• First, we spend a lot of time alone, so we miss the opportunity to connect by accident. You know, like engaging in water cooler chat at the office or an impromptu conversation with a random person when you stop by the coffee shop for your morning cup of java. And on the rare occasion when we do get these opportunities, we tend to close ourselves to them because we’ve gotten so comfortable in our disconnectedness. No, I didn’t say we like it — being disconnected, but we do feel safe there, in that imperfect place where at least we know what to expect.
• Secondly, we crave connection so badly that every connection becomes vital, easily setting us up for disappointment or misunderstanding in terms of what a new connection is or is not. In fact, we so badly want connection that we seem to only focus on deep connection and forget there are so many other opportunities for us to connect.
Do either of these scenarios (or similar ones) ring true for you? Whatever the case, there is one thing you should know for sure. The feelings of isolation don’t have to last. There is something you can do about them, and that something is to get connected. I have identified five levels of connecting, and I believe all five levels, while very unique in purpose, are essential — one just as important as the next.
The five levels of connecting are:
Level 1: Being – simply putting yourself physically out in the world and amongst others. No words, no interaction required. This is like a primer to simply remind you that you are, in fact, not alone, to open your mind to the idea of connecting and to the opportunity to connect.
Level 2: Interacting– to be in the world AND acknowledge it and the people who share it with you. This is where you become conscious to connecting and includes things like observing your surroundings, waving at a neighbor and, yes, maybe even short conversation.
Level 3: Engaging – beyond interacting, this takes the connection a little deeper and likely involves repetitive connection. Engaging typically occurs with people you run into and enjoy on a regular basis – people I call “friendlies” – but may also occur with total strangers as you become more open to connecting in this way.
Level 4: Targeting/Intentional – at this level, you are connecting with people on purpose. These are the people with whom you choose to “do” life. You make a point to connect with them, to share more of yourself and your life with them — on purpose.
Level 5: Culminating/Intimate – sharing your deepest level of yourself. This level is reserved for your most intimate relationships, including your spouse or romantic partner and possibly close family members or your very best friends. These are the connections with people whom you rely on the most and with whom you share your best and worst of life.
To resolve your feelings of isolation, you will want to become keenly aware of and strive to connect in all five levels. If you’ve been “doing” life alone for a while, you may be most comfortable starting at level one and working your way up. Baby steps are okay. It is more important that you start than where you start.
In the beginning, you will need to make very conscious choices about creating and taking opportunities to connect, but what I found was that, eventually, connecting will begin to become second nature. Sure, every once in a while in a new or uncomfortable situation, you may need to remind yourself or become a little more conscious about connecting, but on a day to day basis, it’s likely to just become part of who you are, how you “do” life.
It’s time to open your self to the world. If you will start now creating opportunities to connect, even at levels one and two, you will soon turn around to see that you are no longer alone (or lonely.) You will turn around to see that you are one amidst millions of others right outside your door, others with whom you are meant to share a world — and a life, whether for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
So what are you waiting for? I say strap on your boots, open the door and walk out into a world that will be a little more connected itself because you have come out to play!!
Coach Shannon’s Questions for Reflection:
• What five things can you do today to begin connecting or reconnecting to your self, others and the world? (Remember, it’s ok to start small!)
• What are you looking for through these connections? Activity partners? Deep and lasting friendships? Someone to do things with on evenings and weekends? All of the above? Other?
• What is stopping you from taking the steps necessary to connect with others in order to meet these goals?
Shannon Short is The SPARK! Coach and a recovering “isolatee.” After living a life of complete connectedness, in her early 40s, Shannon turned around one day and realized she was doing much of her life all alone. Working with her own personal coach, she started taking steps to purposefully reconnect with herself, others and the world, and that is when she identified the Five Levels of Connecting she shares with you in this article.