What’s the secret behind good friendships?
In a recent blog post, I wrote about a weekend I spent with my oldest friend. In that article, I talked about how we share the same Perceptual Style and how that contributed to the deep connection that we have had for 50 years. But there is more to that connection than shared Perceptual Style.
If it were that easy, I would be close friends with everyone I met who shares my style. But that’s not the case.
I do have meaningful relationships with people from all six Perceptual Styles. I suspect if you knew the Perceptual Style of the people you are close to and love, you would discover the same is true about you too!
It’s important to point out that I am not talking about romantic relationships. That is a whole other topic. What I am talking about here are friendships. People with whom we do not live but who are very important in our lives.
Exactly how people create a real and lasting connection is a mystery. It is an experience that is ineffable, powerful, and transformative, and I offer, at the core of, what brings joy to life.
Real connection is not limited to one-on-one relationships; it also happens in groups.
About nine years ago, I began attending a quarterly group of people whose initial commonality was that we were all in individual therapy with the group organizer and leader. It was definitely a therapeutic group, but it was not group therapy in the usual sense, more of a support group for people walking down a common therapeutic path.
We meet once a quarter in Los Angeles, which requires a bit of planning and effort on my part as I live in Texas! I first attended with some reluctance, as group therapy has never been my thing.
Over the years, the group membership varied from a high of about 18 to the current core of 8. As the core solidified, there was a shift from being strangers to the comfort of being with friends who deeply care about each other, our lives, and the growth and transformation we are each experiencing. I wouldn’t dream of missing one of our quarterly gatherings!
I have heard many stories from friends and clients about similar groups of deep, long-term friends. Mine happens to have therapy as a common ground, but that just reflects the circumstances of my life.
I know of groups that get together based on camping, March Madness, fantasy sports, golf weekends, psychological retreats, and cooking. Some groups get together monthly, others on an annual basis. The shared activity sometimes changes as the years pass and the group members’ age.
As I thought about writing this article, I did a little research to see if there were any agreed upon factors that create and hold individuals and groups together. Turns out there are indeed!
Here is a list, gleaned from the internet, of what brings about and sustains deep connections:
Shared experiences: People who have been through similar experiences tend to bond more deeply. This could be anything from a shared hobby or interest, to a difficult life event like a loss or illness.
Vulnerability: When people open up and share their fears, hopes, and dreams, they create a space for intimacy and connection. Vulnerability can be scary, but it can also be a powerful tool for building deep connections.
Active listening: When someone feels heard and understood, they are more likely to feel a deep connection with the listener. Active listening involves giving someone your full attention, reflecting back what they're saying, and showing empathy.
Trust: Trust is the foundation of any deep connection. When people feel they can trust each other, they are more likely to share their innermost thoughts and feelings.
Authenticity: Genuine and authentic people tend to attract others who value those qualities. When people are true to themselves and don't try to put on a façade, they create a space for deep connection.
Shared values: People who share the same values are more likely to feel a deep connection. Values like honesty, integrity, and kindness can serve as a common ground for building strong relationships.
Time and effort: Deep connections require time and effort. People who invest time and energy into building and maintaining relationships are more likely to create lasting bonds with others.
The pandemic years had a big impact on me. They changed the way I connect and who I connect with. When the casual basis of interaction was removed, I discovered who was most important for me to work to stay connected with and who was willing to put in the work to stay connected with me.
My best friend and I have maintained a weekly Zoom call, and my group in California met virtually six times. It’s not the same as being physically with each other, but the connections were so important that the effort was made.
I invite you to reflect on your own connections. How do your connections reflect the circumstances of your life? Who are you deeply connected to, and why? If you have a deep group connection, what holds you together? Has the way you connect changed? Who are you willing to put in the work to stay connected to? How many of the seven factors are active in your connections? Can you incorporate any of the ones that are missing to take your connections deeper?
Most importantly, get in touch with the good feelings, the joy, and the comfort your deep connections provide. Rediscover how they create the fabric of your life.
Until next time – celebrate who you are and laugh a little each day!
Share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below.
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About Dr. Gary M. Jordan, Ph.D.
Gary Jordan, Ph.D., has over 35 years of experience in clinical psychology, behavioral assessment, individual development, and coaching. He earned his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology – Berkeley. He is co-creator of Perceptual Style Theory, a revolutionary psychological assessment system that teaches people how to unleash their deepest potentials for success. He’s a partner at Vega Behavioral Consulting, Ltd., a consulting firm that specializes in helping people discover their true skills and talents. For more information, visit https://www.YourTalentAdvantage.com.
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