6 Barriers You Need to Break Through If You Want to Connect With Other People

Group of friends hanging out on a curb representing how to connect with other people
People aren't so strange

We are experiencing a loneliness epidemic in the western world.

Modern life creates barriers to connecting with others that did not exist in the past. Algorithms allow people to get lost in their own bubbles.

Staying inside, ghosting dates, and isolating yourself are always easy and available options. Social media amplifies superficiality.

Loneliness is not just having no one to connect with. It’s about not being connected to the right people; the people who can see you; the people you resonate with.

The causes of this epidemic are beyond the scope of this article, but what we can do is examine our behavior, and challenge the things that keep us from nourishing our need for connection.

Here are the six biggest barriers to connecting with people, and how to get beyond them.

1. You Can’t Connect if You're Invulnerable

Vulnerability is opening up. It’s revealing a part of yourself in an attempt to be heard and understood. When you find people who understand you, connections are formed.

When we refuse to reveal our insecurities, secrets, shame, weird opinions bizarre hobbies, and personal beliefs, we isolate ourselves. You can’t be harmed if you don’t tell people who you are.

But that comes at the price of never being seen or felt. Your shell becomes your prison, and your people-pleasing persona becomes your identity.

How to Get Beyond:

Here’s how to make yourself vulnerable more often: Show your humor. Share a thought. Tell a secret. Try something you’ve been hesitating to try.

You might find that the part of you you’ve been hiding is not so strange. That the people around you would still love you if they knew who you were.

And if they don’t, then as painful as that would be, you would know the truth. You could move on and find people who would.

2. Low Self Esteem and Shame

“No one wants to hear what I have to say. I am not someone people want to be around. I never know what to say. Why would anyone want to spend time with me?” These are the things I would tell myself.

Having a low self-opinion is another barrier to making quality connections. Negative experiences have convinced you that being social will bring you nothing but pain and embarrassment. You don’t believe that anyone could want to connect with you.

How to Get Beyond:

Self-esteem can be healed and strengthened. Part of that involves being vulnerable (See #1), but the rest involves exploring the origins of your shame, challenging yourself, practicing gratitude for who you are, and forgiving yourself for past mistakes.

Learning to like or even love yourself is a long process. But it’s necessary if you want to connect with others in a healthy way and accept the love they are willing to give you.

3. Without Empathy, You Can’t Connect

Some people couldn’t give a shit what you have to say. They barrel over your comments, one-up your stories, and tell you a million things about themselves without ever asking about you. It’s tough to connect with a person who doesn’t want to know you.

Because of social media, people are coming to see each other as one-dimensional friends, foes, or stereotypes. They don’t care to look for humanness, or have any curiosity about other people’s lives or perspectives.

How to Get Beyond:

Take an interest in other people if you want to connect with them. Listen to them, and seek to understand before you pass judgment. Listening and understanding are phenomenal gifts to give someone.

People will share themselves if they know you are listening, and they will massively appreciate you for it.

4. Neediness

Picture a comedian who’s bombing on stage. He seems desperate. His goal is to earn the praise of the crowd, not entertain them. He needs them to laugh to validate his humor and worth.

Every joke feels like begging for change. That uncomfortable feeling is why no one is laughing.

Now picture a comedian who’s killing on stage. His intentions are to create an awesome experience and connect with the crowd through his art form.

Every joke is an act of giving, not begging or leeching. He doesn’t need people to tell him he’s funny when he’s already proved it to himself.

How to Get Beyond:

Neediness is a turn-off in any social context. If you approach social interactions with the mindset of “needing them to like you,” then you are screwing yourself from the start.

If you can’t know your own worth (See# 2), then you leech it off others. Yes, connecting is a need. But the caveat is that other people can’t define what you’re worth, and if you expect them to, all you’ll do is push them away.

5. Lack of Social Skills

Some people have good intentions, but a lack of social experience and a tendency to isolate leaves them lost. Being socially proactive is strange to them. Some don’t even think it’s possible.

They don’t know how to start conversations, interact at parties, or ask someone out on a date. They might not understand social cues. Or maybe their lack of social experience leaves them too embarrassed to put themselves out there.

How to Get Beyond:

This one is a matter of experience. The more you put yourself in uncomfortable social situations, the more you learn. Even if that means talking to as many strangers as possible throughout your day.

If you need more help, there are coaches that teach social and dating skills. Investing in coaching or mentorship could be the best decision you make for your social life.

6. Practical and Lifestyle Barriers

I’m sure you know someone like this. Their schedule is always the same. They get up, commute, work, commute home, watch Netflix/go online, and then sleep.

On the weekends they do the things they are comfortable with like gaming or reading. Their lifestyles are not conducive to having a vibrant social life.

This is common now. Isolation and habitual routine rule people’s lives. Comfort zones are so much easier to stay in when you can access the world without having to go outside. No wonder we’re lonely.

How to Get Beyond:

Choose an interest and immerse yourself in its social aspect. If you’ve been curious about cooking, take a course. If you’re a student, join a club.

If you want to get in shape, join a CrossFit gym (CrossFit is big on group exercises). Into anime? Go to a con. Whatever you do, make it social. Do something different.

Go Out, Connect, and Remember What Matters

Don’t get distracted by all the information and memes and bullshit. What you’re going to remember on your deathbed are the moments you shared with other people. Focus on connection, and don’t fall into the cynical trap of thinking that it isn’t possible. I’ve done that, and it got me nowhere.

To review:

  • Let yourself be vulnerable and seen.
  • Take steps to heal your damaged self-esteem so you can see social interaction as an opportunity to connect.
  • Listen to people before you judge them.
  • Reinforce your own worth so you don’t have to seek others’ approval.
  • Take steps to up your social skills.
  • Make your lifestyle more conducive to being social.