I believe we are all seeking to be understood. Creating strong bonds with someone is part of the path to feeling understood. When we feel understood, we feel seen and validated and that we matter.
I have stronger bonds now than I’ve ever had. Friendship is important, and I value my close bonds with incredible people. These bonds haven’t fallen into my lap. I’ve worked hard at cultivating them.
In this article, I will combine my own experience with science to outline what it means to bond with others and how you can create strong bonds with someone.
What does it mean to bond with someone?
A strong adhesive or glue creates a bond between two items, sticking them firmly together.
The Collins dictionary suggests a bond between people is:
“...a strong feeling of friendship, love, or shared beliefs and experiences that unites them.”
Think of some of your strongest connections. What did you bond over? We often bond over common areas, including shared political opinions, hobbies, interests, and life experiences.
When we bond with someone, we feel drawn to them. There’s a safety that comes with this bond. We are more likely to feel comfortable being authentic and sharing personal information. We also benefit from a boost in self-esteem, knowing that someone has our back and values us.
The benefits of strong interpersonal bonds
Social Psychology notes from BC Campus suggest that “Forming and maintaining satisfying relationships makes us feel good about ourselves.”
We’ve all heard the cliche of feeling lonely in a crowd. That’s a great example of being surrounded by people but not being bonded to anyone.
When we build bonds with other people, we alleviate loneliness and feelings of isolation. While our bonds with others are not tangible things, we benefit enormously from knowing they are there.
I have built myself a safety net of interconnected relationships. My strong bonds with friends have helped me feel worthy and boosted my self-confidence. I am significantly happier today than in the days of loose and fickle relationships. And I do not doubt that my enhanced happiness is down to the quality of my social bonds.
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5 ways to build a strong bond with someone
We know the importance of social connections to enhance our well-being and self-esteem, but how do we build strong bonds to benefit from them?
Here are our top five tips for how to build a strong bond with someone.
1. Spend time together
They say it takes 140 hours for a good friendship to develop. So, to get to this point, we need to spend time together. Ideally, this would be in person, but in this day and age, this isn’t always possible. Video and voice calls and other online interactions count. I feel bonded to some people whom I have never met in person.
Interestingly, when we stop spending time together, our bonds can dissipate. Of all the friendships I have lost, one key commonality stands out. We didn’t spend much or any time together. Personally, I don’t think meeting up once a year and talking about our past is enough to build cohesion. But it depends on the relationship.
I have one friend who I cherish deeply. We can go years without seeing each other due to geographical limitations. But when we meet up, we aren’t restricted by conversation of the past. We build new memories by sharing new adventures and sharing our thoughts and ideas with each other. It’s nourishing.
2. Be romantic
I consider myself a romantic friend, which is important in building bonds.
It’s not just about remembering birthdays and sending a note at Christmas. It’s about remembering dates that are important to someone, maybe seeing something that reminds you of them and sending it to them, just because.
We can be romantic in a platonic way. All it comes down to is being attentive and thoughtful.
It feels incredible to be on the receiving end of a romantic friend. We feel special and listened to. There’s something profoundly uplifting in receiving small gestures from someone.
Here are some ways you can be a romantic friend and deepen your bond with someone.
- Remember special dates, from job interviews to anniversaries, and message them.
- Send them a card with a few words of how much you value them.
- Take the lead and arrange a meal or day out for the two of you.
- Don’t be shy in telling them how awesome they are.
Many of us hear, but how many of us listen?
In this episode of the We Can Do Hard Things podcast hosted by Glennan Doyle, five tips are suggested to improve conversation skills. These are:
- Stop interrupting.
- Be aware of talk time.
- Keep confidences.
- Know when to make it about you.
- Ask better questions.
The strand of commonality connecting all five areas is our ability to listen.
Interrupting conversations leaves others feeling unheard and undervalued. Similarly, hogging the conversation suggests we are more important and is offputting to others.
The point that stands out the most here is the skill of knowing when to make a conversation about you.
I recently chatted with an acquaintance; we shared stories of difficulties we’d experienced in close friendships. I told her that things with my ex-best friend were barbed and peculiar for six years before our untangling. The person I was speaking with didn’t comment on that. She simply replied, “Well, for me, it was 12 years,” that was it; I was shut up.
You see, one-upmanship stifles conversation. That whole “Oh, you think that’s bad…”
I didn’t feel bonded to this acquaintance. I didn’t feel seen or heard. I felt she was trying to push herself onto me and engage in some sort of weird competition as to who had it worse.
To build a strong bond with someone, listen to them, validate their words, and ask follow-up questions. Don’t immediately turn the conversation to yourself.
4. Prioritise honesty
Honesty can be difficult. But if you aren’t honest, you can’t build strong bonds; it’s as simple as that.
I have a friend of 28 years. While I love her dearly, I feel she holds me at arm's length, I rarely get much honesty from her.
What do I mean when I talk about honesty? This friend of 28 years is notorious for being flakey and canceling on me. She comes out with all sorts of excuses; if I’m honest, I’ve checked out.
Another friend has canceled on me for a similar amount of time, but she is honest and gives me reasons, not excuses. She tells me where her head is and how she can’t face going out into the world. She shares her difficulties.
Being honest with each other leads to stronger bonds and a deeper understanding.
5. Embrace vulnerability
Vulnerability is similar to the importance of honesty, as outlined above. But it goes one step further.
When we are vulnerable with another person and open up about our fears, doubts, worries, and insecurities, we show our human side, and this very act of vulnerability creates a safe space that encourages the other person to be vulnerable.
A mutual trade-off of vulnerabilities ensues. And this is bonding.
Brene Brown is a leading expert on vulnerability. In this piece on vulnerability, Brene Brown is quoted as saying, “Vulnerability is key to connection because it is the courage to be open to another human.”
Many of us avoid vulnerability for self-preservation purposes. But the truth is, denying ourselves vulnerability is more an act of self-sabotage than self-preservation.
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Bonding with others is an essential part of being human. We are all different, and some may need more bonds than others. But ultimately, we all need some form of bond.
Don’t forget our top five tips for how you can build strong bonds with someone.
- Spend time together
- Be romantic
- Prioritise honesty
- Embrace vulnerability
Is there anything you do to increase your bond with others? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!