Do you know what it’s like to feel alone?
I was in first grade when I realized I was lonely, longing for connection and reciprocation in relationships. The ache was real. There was so much more to me than swinging and chasing and running away from little-boy lips. It was that “more” part of me I wanted to share and know about someone else. I grasped at every opportunity to connect deeply with friends as we grew up. There were many beautiful moments, many fascinating friends.
But I’m not sure any of us know ourselves well enough to connect very deeply as school kids. Eventually we scatter and many of us are left with the impression that we are still…different. Alone. Close proximity to other people in college can intensify the feeling that we’re different. And that’s how we begin our adult years. We see those people who seem to have a bunch of friends and wonder “Why them? Why not me?”
When I was in college in Nashville, I wished other people could know the me from my hometown in Nebraska. I figured other people might want to share their stories too, so I started asking people about themselves. And, as it turns out, everyone was lonely. I didn’t talk to one person who didn’t have some sort of longing for more out of their friendships.
I determined at that point to assume that everyone is lonely at some level. Rather than focusing on my own loneliness, which I felt with a sharp pang most of the time, I decided to make a difference for others who felt lonely. I determined to offer them a chance to share their hearts with me.
“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
And as it turns out, I found countless kindred spirits! I also learned how to find them. Perhaps you also feel alone and long to connect deeply with others. You might be amazed at the friendships formed when you start asking others about themselves instead of worrying about what they think of you. It’s totally exciting to see people light up with enthusiasm when they realize that another person is actually curious about them.
Here are five things that might help you start a conversation and find a kindred spirit:
1. Believe that everyone longs to be known. You are not the only lonely person, you are the only person who has the opportunity to touch the heart of the person you are with right here, right now.
2. Stop making fun of people – cold turkey. People don’t want to be real with you if they think you’ll make fun of them later.
3. Refuse to gossip. If you are someone who is comfortable with gossip, you are someone with whom others will not feel safe sharing their hearts.
4. Tell the truth. Don’t say what you think other people want to hear, say waht you really think or feel. You don’t have to be mean, but you can be honest. You can be real without bearing all. Tell what is true about how you feel without over-sharing the details.
5. Borrow Bravery. It’s hard to muster the courage to ask others about themselves, so borrow your bravery by reading, listening to or watching real stories, bravely told by real people.
Feeling lonely is really hard. Gather your courage and go start a conversation.
Here’s to finding friends by being one!