Feeling a little stuck in your own bubble? Here are some tips to reach out, deepen connection and let others in again

Recently I spent four glorious days with a group of friends in the countryside. It had been over six months since we’d all been together and several years since we last went away. While some people, including our exuberant taxi driver, assumed we were using the Bank holiday weekend as an excuse to drink, it was conversation we got drunk on.

We talked non-stop for those four days. We ventured down memory lane, opened up about what’s on our minds right now and mused on what the future might hold. When we parted ways, my cup felt full and I realised just how empty it had been to start with.

I’m sure you can relate to this – it can be so easy to simply… get stuck in your own bubble of existence. Living your day-to-day life with just you and those you interact with daily, perhaps a significant other, your work colleagues etc. Every now and then you’ll think, ‘I really must catch up with X’, or ‘When was the last time I called Y?’. But then your to-do list winks at you from your desk and as quickly as the thought arrived, it vanishes. Before you know it, months have gone by without you speaking to certain friends and family members.

My weekend of indulgent connection was a wake-up call – I need more of this. Even as an introvert with a tendency to feel anxious when the calendar gets full. So what can we do if we want more connection but are navigating busy lives?

1. Embrace voice notes

I am offering this advice as someone who generally doesn’t like voice notes but is realising their subtle power. Something I loved about my weekend away was hearing the tone of my friends' voices and getting a clearer picture of how they felt. This can be tricky via text and while in-person may be best, voice notes can bridge the gap between friendships that sprawl across long distances.

The next time you feel an urge bubbling up to tell a friend about something, try sending a voice note and see how it feels. It’s not for everyone (we all have different preferred communication styles) but if your friends are open to it too, give it a go.

2. Set reminders to check in

This is a small way I’ve been trying to be more present in my friends' lives. Typically I would wait for one of them to pipe up in a group chat, lying somewhat passive in wait. Now I have a monthly reminder popping up on my phone asking ‘Have you checked in with your friends?’. Yours might be to check in with certain family members or even workmates. This small prompt can jolt us into action and help us reach out.

3. Admit what you want

After my connection revelation, I went online and wrote about it, admitting that I wanted more connection and inviting readers to reach out. This gave an online friend the excuse to say ‘Yes, let’s get coffee’ and now we have plans to meet IRL.

It can feel vulnerable to admit you want connection and even that you’re experiencing loneliness. In doing so, however, you give others the chance to say "Me too". Admitting what you truly want opens a door and lets others in.

4. Don’t hesitate

I wonder if this has ever happened to you, you’re thinking about messaging or calling someone, but something holds you back. Maybe you’re worried they will be too busy to listen. Perhaps you don’t want to feel like you’re burdening them or encroaching on their free time. My thinking here (and it comes with caveats) is not to hesitate. Send that message, make that call. You never know how much the person on the other end might need it too.

Now, about those caveats. If we are finding ourselves relying on our friends for emotional support often, it may be worth asking for consent before we offload.

Here are five ways to ask for emotional consent to vent.

5. Create a routine

This feels like a less fun tip than the others, but as a creature of habit, I appreciate its value. To help you keep up with certain connections, try to create a habit or routine around them. After our weekend away, my friends and I decided to mark the same weekend every year in our calendars as a weekend together. By earmarking this weekend, we hope it will take away the often monumental task of aligning calendars in the future.

In a similar vein, every Friday afternoon I know I’ll have a call with my mum and sister. We don’t make it every week of course, but it has become a connection sticking point for us all. Again, this takes away the messiness of remembering and arranging connection – it’s in the diary, a recurring reminder to connect.

We are living in a time where connection isn’t a given. We’ve all experienced a pandemic that brutally cut off connection; one that’s changed the way many of us work and interact with colleagues. We’re also seeing a rise in individualistic culture as more of us look out for ourselves above others.

Instead of seeing these shifts as an excuse to give way to the inevitable, let’s use them as motivation to move the other way. Let’s get intentional about connection, bring people together and burst our own bubbles.

If you think you could benefit from some extra support in maintaining or growing friendships, you may find it helpful to work with a coach. Learn more on Life Coach Directory.