We’re more connected than ever before but researchers will tell you that we’re also more isolated and lonely than we were even a generation ago. That connectedness comes with a price and it’s a high one that most of us pay every day.

In my own life I’ve felt helpless to act as text messages replaced phone calls and social media overtook face-to-face interactions. Thankfully there are still ways to build deep, meaningful friendships in the digital age. Here are six.

Learn To Ask High Value Questions

As Mark Chassman, mentor and founder of the Emerging Leaders Initiative, often reminds me, it’s important to ask questions that encourage people engage their brains rather than just a knee-jerk response. For example we all have a pre-loaded response ready to the daily “how ya doing” regardless of what’s actually going on in our lives.

Stepping away from questions where one word answers suffice helps to open up dialogue and invites the other person to share what’s really important in their life. For example I’ve replaced “how ya doing” with “What’s the most exhilarating thing going on in your life right now?” and can’t quite articulate just how much it is fun to watch people’s eyes light up when they realize that it isn’t a rote pleasantry and you’re actually inviting them to share.

People Aren’t Against You

People aren’t against you, they’re for themselves. I don’t know where I first heard it but this zippy one-liner has opened up my thinking about deepening friendships.

When you come to accept this idea as truth you are able to approach each and every relationship with the other person’s best interest in mind. This means creating value first which automatically positions you to create genuine interactions with everyone you meet.

The most powerful part of the give-to-get model is that it can apply to every relationship whether personal or professional. Used effectively it’ll improve your relationship withy our boss just as easily as it will with your spouse.

Understand Human Motivation

Despite the change in how we interact in the digital age people generally haven’t changed and understanding what makes people tick is key to building meaningful relationships.

Chassman believes that people are all driven by four basic motivators: The need for purpose, belonging, worth, and feeling competent in the things we do. By becoming cognizant of the motivators helps to know specifically how to create value in your relationships.

Personally I’ve seen a huge uptick in the quality of my relationships by learning to recognize these four drivers in everyday interactions because whenever I hear lack (i.e. Lack of worth) in a conversation I’m able to quickly speak to the need on a deep level.

Embrace Embrace

For some of us this one’s a little harder. Scientists continuously trumpet the mental, emotional, and even physical benefits of touch but very few of us intentionally go out of our way to increase the number of touches in our day to day life.

Physical touch goes a long way to building relationships in that it tears through the rigid social constructs that we’re accustomed to. Hugging, for example, triggers a release of a happy hormone called dopamine people’s brains and actually helps them like us more.

Some people, however, just don’t like physical touch so always make sure that your advances are welcomed and never ever force yourself on anyone.

Get Some Face Time

There’s so much value to be gained by being face to face with another person; non-verbal cues, shared experiences, and touch to name a few. And it’s no secret that in a culture that’s staring down screens for 12+ hours a day that something’s getting lost.

Finding opportunities to get together in person – for fun or for business – benefits all parties and can be a great way to build on an relationship.

Learn To Be Present

When you do manage to score some face time with a friend don’t squander the experience on your smart devise. Put your phone in the your pocket and practice being present in the moment.

We’ve all seen (or been) the table with half a dozen people all disengaged from each other’s company. I mean at that point you may as well text.

I can already hear the anguished groans of protest and no, you don’t need to be on your phone all the time. No matter how important you may be there’s very few things in life that actually require urgent attention via text or email. If someone needs you enough they’ll call and you can answer. But do yourself a favor and pocket the phone and engage with the person on the other side of the table. The relationship will thank you.


  • Bryce Conlan

    Founder & Executive Sales Coach

    Narrative Advantage

    Bryce Conlan is the Founder of the Narrative Advantage, a consultancy that empowers sales leaders to build high-trust, high-performing teams by discovering the everyday genius of leaders and sales reps alike. Bryce has worked with 10 Fortune 500’s and many other well known brands such as GE, Proctor & Gamble, National Geographic, Harley Davison, Sony Music Group and has directly influenced over $72MM in new revenue for himself and his clients over the course of his career. You can find him at the Narrative Advantage website or follow him on Linkedin