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Building Meaningful Connections and REAL AMERICANS by Rachel Khong

Cover of the book Real Americans by Rachel Khong used to teach the concept of building connections.

Lily was born in the United States to parents who had immigrated from China. Looking at herself in the mirror, she saw both an American and a “foreigner.” This duality left her isolated from others. When Lily met Matthew, they quickly fell in love. This relationship, the love, care, and empathy that flowed through it, helped Lily feel connected.


Nick grew up on an Island near Seattle. He was estranged from his father, and was only close with his mother and best friend – the same best friend from elementary school to adulthood. When other people dated, hung out in friend groups, and spent holidays with family, Nick was jealous. He wanted the same emotional bonds he witnessed others experiencing.


Mei came of age in China at a time when neighbors turned against neighbors to curry political favor. She could not trust anyone other than her boyfriend and a colleague. Mei kept others at a distance, only truly experiencing love and long-term commitment once her daughter was born. This relationship changed her life.


Healthy relationships with other people – connections – are not just a source of happiness. They have the power to transform our lives. The more connected a person is to others, the brighter their outlook on life becomes. Conversely, loneliness can lead to depression.


Building meaningful connections with others is not a matter of chance or luck. It's about taking control and making things happen. Here are steps you can take to proactively connect with others:


Take Initiative: Reach out and make plans. Take a walk, get coffee, go to a concert—whatever you both find fun. Before you leave each other, plan for the next time.


Congruent Messages: Use nonverbal behaviors to show you care. Avoid using your phone when talking with others, show up on time, and visibly express interest when listening.


Give Others Airtime: Encourage friends to discuss their thoughts and feelings. Listen without judgment.


Open Up: Let others into your life. When you are honest and vulnerable, others will reciprocate, leading to deeper relationships.


Be Consistent: Friendships are formed by continually and consistently engaging in these steps.


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