Happy Holidays! Before you head out the door to yet another festive soiree, why not create a plan to maximize this season’s potential to build connection?
The holiday season is the time of year that centers around connection. We spend time with relatives we may have not seen since the last Christmas party, we share our gratitude with loved ones, we toast to another year of productivity with our colleagues.
Yet, we often neglect these relationships and connections that don’t have a romantic interest or intent, save for this one time of year. Even still, much of the conversation at holiday events often centers around love and commitment, as we take inventory of who is single, see many of our family and friends say “Yes!” to marriage, and scramble to find a suitable date to take to our potlucks and White Elephant parties.
It’s no secret that our society focuses on romantic relationships as a status symbol—as a form of social proof, used to validate our worth. After all, being in a committed relationship means someone was willing to commit to you, which we equate with validating our value as people.
The importance of romantic relationships to one’s happiness has also evolved drastically in the last few decades, as our partner’s have shifted from being our teammate to our everything.
People have fewer social relationships and networks than previous generations before, with over half of adults reporting not having even once close friend they feel they can talk to about important issues. We also spend very little time connecting to our families, as a study of 2,000 parents and children found the average amount of quality time spent together was just 37 minutes per day. Despite this, singlehood is more frequent than ever before, as only 37 percent of young adults ages 21-36 have ever been married. To top it off, a recent study from researchers at the University of Finland and the University of Oxford found that the size of our social circles tends to peak at age 25, after which point the number of face-to-face interactions we have drops significantly.
All of this adds up to an increasing amount of emphasis to partner up and exit the status of singlehood that most of our peers face, as commitment has become increasingly rare. Just like the basic economic principle illustrates, short supply results in a higher demand. We’re certainly seeing the effects of this in terms of the pressure to partner up.
Since connection has become hyper-focused on romantic and sexual outlets, it places an enormous amount of pressure on romantic relationships to be fulfilling. It also causes us to devalue the other relationships and connections we have in our lives—not to mention, makes those who are single feel like they are on an island. Genuine, authentic connection is hard to come by, outside of our dating apps.
Although all of this information might seem bleak, there’s an important opportunity that exists during the holidays that we can use to foster intimacy in other areas of our lives.
During the next few weeks, you’ll probably be amongst family members, friends, and co-workers that you don’t see often or at least not in a celebratory setting. Why not take advantage of these opportunities to connect? Rather than drown your single woes into five glasses of chardonnay, reframe your thinking to see these parties and gatherings as blessings in disguise.
Need tips to take this idea from woo to the real world? Here are four ways you can connect:
Set a Goal
It’s great to have an intention, but intentions often go unrealized if attainable goals aren’t attached to them. Avoid this pitfall by setting a goal for yourself around connection, such as having meaningful conversations with three new people or making (actual) plans to hang out with someone during the holidays. You don’t want to define your goal too rigidly, as this can put undue pressure on yourself that can end up causing you anxiety. Just make sure that you’re aiming to further connection to others in a genuine way—it shouldn’t feel like ticking items off of a spreadsheet!
Have Conversation Topics Ready
It might sound corny, but it works! It can be easy to fall into surface-level conversation with people you don’t see very often or know very well. To avoid this, prepare to converse with the people you’re going to mingle with at your Aunt Sally’s Christmas party or your annual office cocktail mixer by having talking points ready at the helm. Anything that will get people talking on a deeper level—perhaps you could share something personal or special that you’ve experienced in the past year or even make a mental note to give compliments generously.
Come Bearing Gifts
Not to sound materialistic, but presents are always appreciated and never not appropriate. Why not prepare some personalized gifts or even bake cookies that you can pass out during parties? This can be a great way to show someone you care—especially gifts that have a personal touch and meaning. Even bringing old photos on your phone can make for a great throwback moment and conversation starter.
Create a Follow Up to Your Conversations
Once you connect, make a point to establish a reconnection with said individual, so you can establish a rapport that will continue on past your soiree. Before parting ways, suggest hanging out for a coffee, invite them to another event you think they’d enjoy, or simply ask for their Instagram handle and slide into their DMs. From here, make it a point to stay in touch, since it can be easy to have a nice conversation that goes nowhere in the weeks and months to follow. You’d be surprised how simple things like replying to an Instagram story or sending a funny text can often be the difference between future BFFs and a potential friendship that never was.
Remember that connection is supposed to be genuine, authentic, and FUN—not feel like a chore. People can smell desperation from a mile away and you don’t want to be so focused on connecting that you forget to actually be mindful and connect.
Remember to stay in the present moment as you converse, share, and laugh with your friends and family. This isn’t a contest or a race, the only prize to be won is having a good time. Plus, you can take this challenge outside of the holiday season too—no need to put any more pressure onto your already-full plate of get-togethers and gift exchanges. Consider this just the starting point to forming authentic connections all year long!
About the Author
Erin McKelle is a writer, life coach, and new media strategist living and working in New York City. She regularly contributes to publications like MindBodyGreen, Ravishly, and Bustle, as well as her own platform, FemaleFightFans.com. In addition to her freelance and entrepreneurial efforts, she also serves as the Communications Associate for YTH. When not behind her laptop, she can be found boxing, drinking cold brew, or reading the latest self-help book.