I’m spending the fall in New York and find it easier to immerse myself into the city by experiencing it for a longer period of time, instead of just being here as a tourist from Sweden for a week or two. Since I’m a dating coach and an eternal student of human connection, it didn’t take long for me to notice that there is a lot more small talk between people here than a genuine connection in comparison to Sweden. And it made me wonder why.
Someone once told me that the problem with dating in New York City is that everyone wants the mix of simultaneously wanting to be alone and wanting to connect. The city is so loud, crowded and busy that quiet time for yourself is a luxury. Just walking down a Manhattan street can often feel like you are struggling through a human obstacle course.
People everywhere have an intense yearning for alone time, but despite that, in the midst of the big crowd, there is also a lot of loneliness. A strange, counterintuitive loneliness that comes from being surrounded by people but connected to no-one. Sometimes, not even yourself.
This isn’t limited only to NYC but is actually the case in most bigger cities, and a reason Sweden is one of the loneliest countries in the world. This collective loneliness is not a good foundation for love, dating or even friendship. Feeling overcrowded and starved for connection at the same time is a very confusing experience. It can almost be compared to being obese from eating too much junk food, and simultaneously being undernourished because your body is starved on proper nutrients.
Eating more junk food won’t help; you stay just as hungry. In a similar way, “shallow socializing” won’t help either; you will most likely still be feeling lonely. Your heart and soul need nourishing just as much as your body does. And just as the undernourished overeater needs to shift their diet to feel better, you might need to shift your social diet and in order to prioritize the quality of connection over the quantity of connection.
Most of the time, what people are longing for is to be truly seen and deeply connected. To be with someone who’s not in a rush, whose phone won’t threaten to go off any moment. Someone who is comfortable enough to be present with you in the moment. Someone who truly listens, understands and who doesn’t judge.
In a city like New York where success is common but time to be present is not, we might see each other more walking like business cards, colleagues, casual flings, or even a temporary buoy that could save us from drowning in the sea of loneliness for a moment or two. But that is not what love is, it is not friendship, and it is not a connection.
We are often so unfamiliar with true connection that we don’t even know what it is when someone offers it to us. We tend to feel naked and unprotected in the unfamiliarity of vulnerability, but with practice, we can go from “this feels strange” to “this feels like home”
When you can learn to feel comfortable and create that kind of connection on purpose with people on dates, with family, friends and at work, then all of those relationships will shift.
It’s actually like learning a new language; if you want more Swedish speaking friends in your life, it’s probably a good idea to learn how to speak Swedish, right? The same goes for becoming fluent in emotional connection.
Because the absolute most efficient way of finding people who are open to creating an authentic connection (romantic or otherwise) with you is to become one of those people yourself.