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how to break barriers and create connections

create connections  

All differences in the world are of degree, and not of kind, 
because oneness is the secret of everything.

Swami Vivekananda

With all of the differences in cultures and personalities and opinions and thoughts, it's no surprise that we often don't really understand other people. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it's hard to connect with someone because you are so, well, different. If you've ever experienced this before (and most of us have), you know how frustrating it can be. No matter how much you might want to connect with some people, it's not always possible. Sometimes it seems as though there are rivers and streams and entire oceans between you and another person. But personal connections are pretty important to our happiness. So what to do? 

First, we need to give some thought to why we have trouble connecting with those who are different than us... I'm going to state right now that I'm not the best at connecting with other people. When I'm in the mood or making an effort, I'm pretty good at it, but those moments are more rare than they probably should be. However, being the way I am sometimes, I know that it can be difficult to forge connections with others and I think I have some ideas on how I can improve my interactions. Hopefully these suggestions will help you out too. When you're struggling to make a connection, especially with someone who is very different from you, here's my advice: 


The Six Steps for Making a Connection


  1. Figure out why you want to connect. This first step is a vital one. First, before anything else, you need to figure out why you want to connect with this person. Do you want to connect with him/her because s/he is a coworker you have to be around often? Do you want to create a romantic connection with this person? Do you want to connect on a level that will allow you both to get something out of the relationship? Give some serious thought to this because it's very important to understand the why before you understand the how. Wanting to connect with a coworker on a basic level is very different than wanting to connect with a best friend. There are so many different levels on which we can connect with other people. There's no right or wrong level, but you should definitely assess what level of connection you want to have before you move forward.

  2. Be open and honest about connecting. Don't try to do this on your own. It's really important that you open up to the other person and let him/her know that you'd like to have a better connection. Let him or her know that you want to work on it and you're going to do whatever you can to work towards a better relationship. Depending on the situation, you'll probably want to word this differently. I'd advise not using phrases like "I like to have a deeper connection with you" with someone like your boss or "I think understanding one another better will help us be more productive in the office" with your spouse (unless, of course, you happen to work with your spouse...). Give some thought to how you want to go about bringing up the topic, considering the situation, the other person, and the relationship you want to have with that person. The more open you are, the more likely you'll be to forge a greater bond with that person. 

  3. Determine what walls you might have up. It's always easy to look at the other person and say something like, "I can't connect with him/her because..." It's a lot more difficult to look at yourself and figure out what you might need to improve upon. I have all sorts of walls up -- blocking people out from all different angles -- and I know that it's up to me to address those barriers if I want to figure out how to connect better with others. One of the best ways to deal with this step is to get yourself an awesome therapist. If that isn't an option for you, I'd suggest doing some soul searching to see if perhaps you have some walls in place that others find hard to break through. It's easy to point fingers and say that the other person is difficult to connect with (and, yes, sometimes this is in the case), but often connecting with someone (or lack of connecting) has to do with both people. Looking at yourself can be a great way to understand at least your contribution to the situation. 

  4. Tear those walls down if you can. Once you've figured out that maybe you have something to do with the reason you and another aren't able to connect, you need to work on those issues. Whatever they may be, there's got to be a way to work on them. Again, therapy is great for this. Remember, being conscious of the walls you have up is a great first step and you should be proud of yourself for getting to the point where you actually care enough to think about what you might need to change. However, it's important to actually work on these things after you've acknowledged them. This is definitely one of the hardest steps (for me, at least), but it's the one that can make a HUGE difference in your relationships. In fact, sometimes, if you manage to complete this step, you'll find that a connection has been made. More often than not, I find that I'm the one who is holding back from connecting with others. However, if this isn't you, or if, for whatever reason, you cannot remove certain walls completely, you'll want to move on to #5. 

  5. Ask what's holding others back. Before you give this step a shot, remember not to assume anything. It might seem obvious that someone else has barriers up for a specific reason, but making assumptions about why another person acts is usually a very bad idea. (Trust me, this usually doesn't go over well, even if you're right about why they are doing what they are doing.) Since assumptions are dangerous in almost any form, it's best to flat out ask someone why they are holding back from connecting with you. Yes, this is probably awkward, and may seem nearly impossible when it comes to dealing with those you aren't particularly close with, but, believe me, asking is a lot better than assuming. If you make the wrong assumption, you might be doing more harm than good. And, as awkward as it might seem, you'll feel a lot better when you've reached out of your comfort zone to make a connection with someone else. 

  6. Attempt to break through barriers. Once you've clarified what's holding someone else back, do whatever you can to work on breaking through those barriers. How will you know what to do? Ask! No person is the same so something that might be helpful for creating a connection with one person might be really uncool with another person. In order to work on connecting with someone, you need to figure out what would work for them. Reach out and ask him or her what would help to create a stronger connection. Ask if you can help him or her in some way and offer to be open-minded to any and all suggestions. (Of course, don't do anything that makes you uncomfortable, but do be open to doing things someone else's way.) Communication, connecting, and improving relationships takes (at least) two people, so put in all the effort you can and ask the other person to put in effort as well. The real key here is to be open and honest about establishing a connection and, after that groundwork has been laid, to really work on creating that connection. The hard work will pay off. 


Anyone who knows me knows I'm not exactly a people person. I'm definitely not the type to reach out and make connections with people unless I really feel there is a good reason to. However, I think this holds me back in a lot of ways and I'd like to become better at forging connections and strengthening bonds with others. I'm hoping these six steps will really help me work on this and, for those of you who aren't all that great at connecting, I hope they help you too. Clearly I'm no expert on the subject so I'd love to know what advice you have for connecting with others. 

How do you connect with other people?
 What would you add to the six steps I've listed here? 

[Note: Today I was fortunate to be featured as a guest blogger on the wonderful site The Happy Self. Check out my post "If Life Is a Classroom, You Better Sit in the Front" and take a look around at all of the other awesome posts on The Happy Self.]


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I can see this escalating into a fight, even if you work with your spouse:

"I think understanding one another better will help us be more productive in the office"

Guys...don't ever day that to your gf/wife...ever. There's no way that statement would ever be interpreted the way you meant it. :)

On a more serious note, I think it's helpful to understand that deep down, people are all really the same. We all have the same wants, needs, fears, and expectations. We want to be heard, to be loved, to be understood, to be accepted. If you can sit with a person and just listen to them, forming a connection gets a lot easier.


I find it hard to believe that you are not a people person. Then again writing allows us to express alot of what we would want to say without doing it verbally. I think you bring up a really interesting point about connecting with people. I"m in fact working on a blog post called how to become a connector, based on concepts in Gladwell's tipping point. Connecting with people has come naturally for me most of my life, and i'm a fairly outgoing and social person. While your concept of connecting is a bit different, I think alot of the principles apply. I think another thing that allows a connection to happen is letting go of judgment. Great post.

this is a fabulous post. you are always filled with such good info :)

Great post Dani,
Very often there are barriers and words usually are at the top of the list. Lost in translation applies here.

Hi Dani,

Thanks for your comment on my site! We were both featured on "Cultivate Positivity," and after receiving your comment, I ventured over to look at your website. I love it. Beautiful stuff and very courageous of you to put it all out there like this - to let people in on your experience of transforming your attitude and life.

Best of luck to you!

Jay - Hahaha, I agree. That's probably not a good thing to say to a significant other, regardless of whether or not you work together. You brought up a great point about how we're really all the same and, deep down, we all want the same things. Such an important thing to remember when it comes to connecting with others.

Srinivas - I have my "people" moments, but usually I prefer to be alone. You bring up a great point about judgment. If we can let go of that, it's a LOT easy to connect with others. However, it can also be troublesome if the other person is judgmental. I'm looking forward to reading your post. Sounds very interesting!

Melita - Thank you so much! I'm so glad you like it!

Bunny - Thanks! Really great point about how words can cause trouble when it comes to communicating. Not only do people sometimes not say what they really mean, but sometimes the listener doesn't understand what was meant by a word or phrase. This can be tricky for sure!

Jen - You're welcome! I'm so glad you had a chance to come over to Positively Present and check out my site. And I'm even more glad that you like what you see here! It's definitely not easy for me to put it out there, but it's gotten a lot easier over the past few months and I feel like it's really good for me to open up the way I do on the blog. Thanks for stopping by!

Dani, this is a great post. I think the key with connecting with people is...

*Being honest and being yourself.
*Having mutual interests of some sort.
*Being able to give of yourself.

Thanks again for this fantastic post and also, your guest post on my blog today at http://www.thehappyself.com

Dayne :)

Hi Dani,

Very cool post and I like how you outlined some ways through which a connection can be made. One key thing in making connections, any connection, is to be "real". By that I mean to be genuine and who you really all the time.

Thanks for the work you put into this article Dani! You did a great job.

Dayne - Those are excellent points. Thanks for bringing them up! Being yourself and being able to give of yourself are especially important. And you're welcome for the guest post. It was a pleasure to do it!

Keith - Thank you! I agree that being real is one of the best ways to connect with others. Even if you don't have a lot in common with the person, if you are real about who you are, you'll be a lot more likely to be able to connect.

Good post! I think people connect with others who treat them like they care about them; like they want to know what's going on in their lives. Not in a nosey way, just out of concern, or wanting to get to know them. Some people think just because they are outgoing and very talkative, that they are making a connection. Always talking about yourself to others, instead of wanting to hear what the other person has to say doesn't usually lead to a connection. The talker may feel connected but not the listener. Some people are very guarded and they don't easily connect with others.

Hi Dani, this post reminds me that I should really try a little harder to make a connection. My tendency is to let the connection build naturally without much effort but I think it's limiting to do it that way. Great post!

It's absolutely essential to know how to learn to connect with other people, above all, the loved ones...We are currently working on our creativity blog "Necklaces & Ties" and "connecting with the others" is one of the most important aims we have.While reading different books we came across this interesting phrase: "Criticism only increases insecurity of the other person, making them even less likely to change."

Tearing down the walls can be so much more difficult than we ever imagined. We put those walls up to protect ourselves and to take them down means that we are opening to the possibility to be hurt.

It takes a lot of courage to do this.

Love love love this post, Dani!

People are often defensive I find. My smile shakes them up often. I find that I am not competitive in my inter-actions, and a competitive state is very important to many people. When I don't pick up arrows to stab myself with, some people get very upset, and even more so when I don't shoot back.


Anita - Thanks! You've brought up a great point. People really connect with people who seem interested, who seem like they actually care what the person is saying. Listening is a key component of connecting and that's actually something I need to work on!

Belinda - I'm glad you liked the post. I'm hoping that it'll help me work on making connections with others since it's not something I do as often as I should. It's definitely important to put in effort, though it can be difficult at times.

N&T - That's great that you're working on connecting with others through your blog. And thanks for sharing that great quote... I completely agree with that, but it's also important to accept constructive criticism when we're faced with it.

Hayden - Oh, yes, I completely agree. It can be very, very difficult and it really depends on what kind of walls you have up and why (which is where a great therapist can really help out). It's one of the scariest things to tear down our own walls because, as you said, we have them there for a reason. It's worth the effort though, hard as it might be.

Char - People can definitely misunderstand us and we can misunderstand them, which is why it's so important to communicate with others about why you want to connect with them and why it's difficult to do so sometimes. Communication is key when it comes to connecting.

Hi Dani - One of the best ways that I've learned to connect with people is to let them be who they are. This step is more for me, really, in that I try not to push my expectations on other people. Listening works really well to get you to this place. If you can just listen to someone, they will tell you their story, and our own personal stories is where we really connect with others. That's where we find out that in many ways we are more similar than different. :)

Amanda - Great point! It's interesting that someone else brought up that we should be ourselves. I really think it's important to be yourself with people and to allow others to be themselves too. It's actually harder to this than it would seem, but it definitely makes for much better relationships and connections. Listening and opening up to others are the best ways to create these connections!


Wow, how do you find such a great topics and time to write wonderful articles. I am amazed.

One thing I want to add to already great article is to connect with people who are ready and open to connect, sometimes we all face times when we want to be left alone.

I am all for connecting and talking with people, even when I am down but I have found some folks like down time before joining the social life again. For short time, we hope.

Opps, Made a type-erorr. It is Zengirl and not Zengril, although I suppose there could be one :-)

This post reminds me of what steps i take when i am talking to a girl that i am interested in. But i must say that they do work. But overall these steps can be used when connecting with anyone.

Hey Dani....

First and foremost, great,awesome,incredible guest post over at TheHappySelf.

Second, I love meeting new people. The more we connect the better off we will be, I feel. The connections we have in the world open so many more possibilities for successful avenues we can travel.

Good post

LifeExcursion & The Minimalist Path

Hi Dani,
Great article to read - I'm getting better at this, and the six steps just help to take it a bit further!

Hi, Dani! Congratulations on the guest blog - that's awesome!

When it comes to connections, like you, I wasn't always good at them. One huge thing I learned was that any time I came up against someone with whom I didn't click right away (something about them annoyed me, perhaps, or we were simply like oil and water), the things I saw in them that repelled me were actually things in myself I still needed to work on. They were reflections of me; and actually, everyone is a reflection of me. So if I love most people, I know I'm doing all right on the inside where my heart health is concerned. If I'm struggling with people, I know, too, that it starts and ends with how I feel about myself.

I love how your first suggestion was based, more or less, on intention, too. I always try to seek out my intentions in situations. If they're pure, I move forward. If they're tainted (i.e., "I want to be friends with that person because I feel I 'should' be, or because I'd feel guilty not being friends with them), I reassess and might back off. Knowing that what we put out always comes back keeps me in good balance in this department.

Be well!

Zengirl - Haha, I'm so glad you like my topics! I only wish I had MORE time because I really love to write these posts. You've brought up a great point about how, sometimes, people aren't in a place to connect and it's important to realize when we are in that place and when others are in that place as well. Really great point. I'm glad you brought it up!

Josten - I agree that these steps work well when connecting with someone on a romantic level as well as connecting on any level. One of the most important things is to establish what level you want to be connecting on because your actions are going to be very different depending on the situation.

Dave - Thank you so much for your compliment on my post over at The Happy Self! :) I'm so glad you liked it! I agree that connections are so important and we can gain a lot from them, which is why I really want to work on my connecting skills.

Lance - Thank you! I'm also getting better at this, but I think these steps (and the great feedback in the comments!) will really help me create even stronger connections with others.

Megan - Thanks! It was great to be able to have a post over on The Happy Self because I love the blog. Ahh, you've brought up such a good point and one that I've heard many times but somehow (purposefully??) forget about. Many of the things that bother us in others are things we don't like about ourselves and the sooner we realize this, the sooner we'll be able to connect more with others (and with ourselves!). As you summed up perfectly: "it starts and ends with how I feel about myself." And I also really like what you've said about intention. If we don't have pure or good intentions, then the connection probably won't work (or won't be real). For that reason, it's so important for us to establish what we want the connection to be (and why!) before we more forward with that relationship.

Thanks for these tips Dani. I liked tip #2 - being open and honest with others. I think a lot of people who don't know each other put up an immediate front in order to protect their ego. Being honest to the other person shows them that you have similarities they they do too. The more open you are with another, the more open they will be to you as well, even if that means having to "act stupid" sometimes to get a laugh from them.

This is a thought provoking post. On why we want to connect with others I would take it one step further, we want to connect because in essence we are already connected and therefore we want to uncover this connection. We all touch each other for a reason. I love # 2, be honest about connecting, yes, it is wise to voice our intentions, people are often weary of making a connection with someone for they feel there are ulterior motives.
#3-6 are very important, yes we often do create walls and limitations. If you look back at your opening you stated that you have a self induced barrier when you state "I'm not the best at connecting with other people. When I'm in the mood or making an effort, I'm pretty good at it, but those moments are more rare than they probably should be. However, being the way I am sometimes, I know that it can be difficult to forge connections with others". In saying this you are creating a limitation, you are building a wall. Change this thought and you will be amazed at how easily you will make connections.
Great post!

Tristan - You're welcome. I agree with you that people often put up an immediate front. I know I do most of the time, and it really hinders my ability to connect with others. In my experience, I've found what you said to be completely true. The more open and honest you are with others, the more open and hones they will be with you (usually).

Mark - So glad this one made you think! And you've made ME think with your comment because you are so right. We are already all connected, but we have to uncover those connections. And what a great point you made about my statement. That is SO true! I am already putting up a barrier by thinking that way... Thanks so much for bringing that up, Mark. That's an excellent point and I know changing my thinking will definitely change the way I'm able to connect with others!

When I tell people that I am an introvert, they stare in disbelief. But I know that I am. I've just learned to fake the other stuff--to put up a good front. I'm glad that I don't fear connecting as I once did. Great post Dani.

Syd - People who read my blog definitely don't think I'm an introvert either. I suppose that's because I can be extroverted at times. I'm working on being able to connect better with others and I think it will really benefit me in the long run.

Hi PP, a great article. You've come up with some interesting ways of connecting. One I'd add to the list is to look for what you can learn from the other person. There is always something we can learn and also teach (even it it's what not to do).

Learning from and teaching each other strengthens the connection.

Sami - Thanks! Great addition to the list... I'm glad you brought that point up because it's a great one and it's something that I try to when I'm developing connections. Excellent point! I'm glad you raised it in your comment.

Very interesting... I usually find myself drawn to people "energetically." It's funny since moving out to California I have made some really good friends...all of them raised in the Midwest. Hmmmm? I am fortunate that I get along with about everyone...but sometimes I can feel when I won't click. Then I just keep a formal distance. Honestly, I have never tried to make a connection with a person...it just happens naturally.

Caroline - You've brought up a great point. We shouldn't have to work too hard at some types of connections; some should come naturally. However, there are some situations -- such as at work or at social gatherings -- where you have to work to have connections with others. It's those that I find the most difficult because they don't always come as naturally. Very funny about California -- the same thing happened to me when I moved there! I made lots of friends that were from the east coast! :)

Hi Dani. Excellent list! The best part... decide why you want to connect in the first place. Once you have that established the rest will fall into place. Otherwise why force something you don't want?

Davina - Thank you! I agree that the most important part is to figure out why you want to connect in the first place. This can really help you to frame the situation and understand how you can best go about connecting with that person. As you brought up, at this stage you might realize you don't even want a connection with the person (or you don't want it for the right reasons), and it's better to figure that out sooner rather than later!

This post is aaaaaaamazing, love. I've always liked your blog since I stumbled upon it but I was reading your last few posts that I've missed and you're becoming an out of this world blogging superhero. I love it.

Mermaid - Thank you! Your compliment -- "out of this world blogging superhero" -- made my day. :) Thanks for your support and encouragement. I'm so happy to hear that you like the blog!

Thanks Dani! This comes at an excellent time. I've had trouble with a difficult person, but I've been better at connecting with her because I took the time to learn more about her. If you need to work with someone who is difficult, just take the time to learn more about them, which hopefully will help you understand why they do or act the way they do.

Also, congrats on the guest post!

Laura - I'm so glad the post was relevant for you right now. It sounds like you really handled the difficult person you've had to deal with well. Sometimes we're put in situations where we have to work/interact with people that we have a hard time connecting wit, but I think it's very helpful to realize that sometimes we have actually have to put work into forming connections. I'm glad you're working to learn more about someone else in order to make your connection better. That's awesome! :)

Hi Dani,
I love the photo and the quote about "oneness..."
I like the 6 connection tips, my favorite is #2. I beleive that is the key to connecting.
Thanks for sharing.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Giovanna - I completely agree that #2 is one of the most important when it comes to connecting with others. Glad you liked the photo and quote! I thought they were pretty fitting for this topic...

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