Answers In Love

Winning at Life God's Way

What to Do When You Feel Lonely in a Crowd

Jan and Mike’s Road Trip

Jan and Mike (not their real names) looked forward to their weekend get-away.  All week their jobs, household responsibilities and other commitments kept them from feeling personally connected.

As the couple set out for their three-hour road trip Mike felt happy to get away from work and chatted freely about:

  • the weather
  • the health of a man at his office
  • how he might fix the plumbing
  • politics
  • his questions about a teen they both knew

Jan felt dissatisfied with their experience. She finally said, “I don’t feel connected to you. We haven’t had a personal conversation all week and nothing we’ve talked about this morning helps me feel close to you now. I feel lonely even though we’re together.”

Melissa’s Attempt to Connect

Melissa (not her real name) retired from work and felt isolated. She hoped to connect with other women by joining a local book club. For months she read the assigned books, attended meetings smiled and chatted cheerfully with other club members.

Still Melissa never felt connected in the club. Long-standing friendships among several members seemed obvious and no one there seemed anxious to know Melissa better. Pleasant conversations at the meetings focused on the book read, impersonal news and the exchange of other information. Melissa felt lonely at these meetings.

We Can Feel Lonely in a Crowd

We live in an individualistic, achievement-celebrating culture. Many of us get together with others for a variety of worthy purposes without ever being together. People can be together and still feel lonely in:

  • families that shame vulnerability, emotion and independent thinking
  • marriages built around practical function more than soul connection
  • structured meetings that limit personal sharing
  • places where screens and entertainment curtail conversation
  • recreation & volunteer programs that organize parallel (vs. interactive) activity
  • sit-and-learn education settings

We Need Intimacy

God created us for physical, spiritual and emotional intimacy. The original Hebrew word yada reveals the emotional intimacy of the first marriage (Gen 4:1). Scripture celebrates many deeply personal and loving friendships including those of:

God made us so that loneliness depletes health and closeness fortifies vitality.  Psychological benefits of intimacy include resiliency and reduced risk of mental illness. Physical benefits include lower risk of disease and improved outcomes (including lower mortality rates) once disease strikes. God wants His people connected.

How to Build Personal Connections

Connection takes intentional time and effort. Here are four steps to connecting better when you feel lonely in a crowd:

1. Develop self awareness

Intimacy happens when two people share their deep selves and that requires self awareness. I seek self awareness through prayer, journaling and feedback from others. Read this for help with self awareness.

2. Identify emotionally-available people

Most gatherings leave room for brief conversations that let us us detect who wants to get better acquainted and who doesn’t. People who do:

  • show interest and listen carefully
  • ask questions about you
  • make eye contact and use open body language
  • respond with empathy and stick up for you
  • offer acceptance and affirmations
  • share things about themselves
  • invite you to do things
  • offer to help you

Look for emotionally available people and act available yourself. If you don’t connect in the groups you frequent over time try out some new groups. Look for meeting structures that leave space for personal connection and for leaders who understand that people just want to be together (thanks for teaching me this Ellen Cook!).

3. Create opportunities to connect

If your schedule keeps you busy with things that afford only superficial connection try scheduling events that foster conversation like:

  • A walk in the park
  • coffee or lunch
  • an old-fashioned telephone visit
  • a road trip together
  • meeting to share and pray
  • running errands together
  • doing low-concentration tasks side-by-side that enable conversation

4. Take conversations to a personal level

Emotional intimacy happens when conversation goes deeper than chit-chat and the exchange of information to focus on:

  • current feelings
  • personal meaning made of events & circumstances
  • expectations and plans for the future
  • hopes, dreams and desires
  • worries, fears and concerns
  • personal needs
  • present challenges and struggles
  • greatest joys

Conclusion

I hope you enjoy emotional intimacy with a few trusted others. If you do, guard against  stagnation and keep your relationship personal. If you don’t have intimate relationships, take steps to get closer to someone soon.

God made us for emotional intimacy. Closeness feeds our soul and blesses our bodies. Life is short so don’t miss the yada God intends for your life!

Cheryl

About Cheryl Savageau

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

2 Replies

  1. dianestortz

    such a helpful post and your site looks great! Love the line from Ellen Cook, have heard you repeat it many times!

    1. Cheryl Savageau

      Thanks Di. We sure found the truth of Ellen’s wisdom in POM!

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