by Andrea M. Darcy
Don’t really know how to get closer to someone like others seem to? Struggle with intimacy issues, and an inability to connect to others?
Or do you worry that you will never have a good relationship or friends you can count on, even as you long to know what it feels like to trust and love another?
How to Get Closer to Someone
You’ll find a lot of advice out there encouraging you to focus on the other person, to essentially ‘trick’ them into intimacy. But this is actually backwards and far from a sustainable or healthy relating strategy.
From a psychological perspective, to develop the skills that help you get closer to others, you have to work on yourself, not them.
Here are some concepts and tools you can work with to help you get closer to someone.
1. First of all, choose different relationships.
Does every relationship you try to have just end up proving to you that you should not bother to get close to people? Given that they just always disappoint you?
First things first — it is pointless to try to get close to someone who does not WANT you to be close to them, and yet that is what many of us with intimacy issues tend to waste our time on. We choose relationships with people that are emotionally unavailable or manipulative. Or who are endlessly micro–cheating.
photo by Pixabay for Pexels
Sometimes it’s because we grew up in an unstable home, or with a parent who was unstable or unavailable, and this is the comfort zone that we unknowingly veer to. And of course if childhood trauma left us fearing anyone getting too close and seeing the real us that we perceive as no good? Then we don’t choose those who are good at intimacy.
But it becomes a self-defeating cycle. We try to connect with someone who isn’t really interested in connection, and when it obviously doesn’t work, we take it as ‘proof’ we can’t have relationships.
Learn how to choose different types of people. Stop rushing into things before you know someone, and spend time learning the signs of healthy relationships and healthy people. (Our free Guide to Healthy Relationships is a good place to start.)
2. Drop assumptions.
Do you ask people what they think or feel before acting on things? Or do you assume you know what they are thinking, then react?
Assumptions block us from seeing people as they are and can even see us living in a false, paranoid reality where we push people away over things that aren’t true.
Unless you can read minds, the only way to truly know what someone thinks and feels and to develop intimacy is to learn how to ask. Develop better listen skills, then if you aren’t clear on what someone is saying, ask them for more clarity.
A now well-known study by psychologist Arthur Aron found that if we learn to ask good questions, we can develop intimacy with others far faster.
3. Learn about perspective.
Do you think the way you see things is always right, meaning you tend to make others wrong?
People tend to back away from knowing you if they are constantly told ‘you are wrong’.
Actually, there often is no right and wrong, merely perspective. We all see life from the angle of our own values and personalities. Ten people can be at the same event, and all will tell a different story.
There is an old saying that suggests we try ‘walking a mile in another person’s shoes’. What would life look like if you were the other person? Can you try imagining?
4. Invest in self-knowledge.
Do you change who you are depending on who you are around?
For others to connect to us, they need to be able to see who we are in the first place. If your sense of self is weak, it can mean others struggle to understand you and you are left feeling lonely. So how to get closer to people? Learn how to pay attention to what you feel, what your personal values are, and what boundaries work for you.
Tools like journalism and mindfulness are very helpful here (you can use our free Guide to Mindfulness).
5. How to get closer to someone? Learn how to trust yourself.
Do you doubt your own thoughts and feelings?
It’s easy to focus on others being hard to trust. But if you don’t trust others, the truth might be that you don’t trust yourself. You don’t know what you’ll do next, or can’t trust yourself to make decisions that keep you safe and happy.
Slow down with the next decision you are asked to make. What is it you really want here? What decision would show good self-care?
Learn to ask good questions of yourself. You might also find mindfulness is also a way to get in touch with what you want more easily.
6. Try self-compassion.
Do you secretly criticise others?
Others will back away from intimacy with you if they sense you are always criticising them.
Behind critical thoughts towards others is inevitably criticism towards ourselves. So the best way to stop being hard on others is actually to work on giving ourselves a break.
By learning to be more gentle with yourself using self-compassion, you will by default also raise your self-esteem. And this, too, makes relationships easier.
7. Challenge your core beliefs.
Do you deep down just think you are not loveable, are flawed, or are somehow not as good as anyone else?
Core beliefs are assumptions about ourselves, others, and the world we mistake for facts. Unless we recognise and challenge these core beliefs we developed in childhood, we can spend our whole life making decisions under their false perspective. Such decisions will, of course, ‘prove’ the belief as ‘right’.
What proof do you actually have that you are unlovable (or flawed, or not good enough, or hopeless…). Is it possible this is just something that negative childhood experiences taught you?
What would life look like if the opposite were true? What new decisions would you make?
When is it time to get support?
Again, intimacy issues often come from traumatic childhood experiences, or from childhoods where we just didn’t get a chance to develop healthy attachment to a parental figure. We were not able to trust them to be there for us regardless.
Trauma can be hard to navigate. So sometimes the answer to ‘how to get closer to people’ can be to find the support of a professional therapist or counsellor. (Try our article on what therapies help you find a good relationship).
A good therapist will create a safe space for you to process the repressed emotions and negative thoughts that arise for you around relating. They can help you work on all the tools in this article, and help you learn to connect to others in all new ways.
A therapist can also help rule out if it is a personality disorder blocking your ability to connect with others, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD). Or if you might have something like Asperger’s syndrome that means relating skills are not easy for you and you need to learn them.
Would you like to work with a therapist that specialises in intimacy issues? Harley Therapy connects you with highly experienced relationship therapists in three London locations. Online therapy sessions are also available. Or use our sister site to find UK-wide affordable registered therapists.
Still have a question about how to get closer to people and how to connect to others? Ask in our public comment box below.
Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health expert and writer who often writes about relationships. Find her on Instagram for useful life guidance @am_darcy