the key ingredient for deeper relationships


Today I’d like to talk about the most important – and often overlooked – factor that is essential for deeper, more connected relationships.

Ignoring this factor can cause a lot of heartache.

When it is properly understood and acted upon, it can bring lasting peace.

What is this magic factor, you ask?


No matter how much we bring to a relationship, we cannot force another person to connect any deeper than they are willing (or able) to go.

This truth, though seemingly obvious, is often ignored.

I should know.

I kept looking for deeper relationships with certain friends and family members for years to no avail.

No matter how much I gave to these relationships, I could never force a deeper connection if the other people didn’t have the same intent.

I’ve also seen this play out in a client’s life recently as well.

No matter how much she gave, she could never illicit the same level of care and concern from a handful of her friends and siblings.

We both butted our heads against the principle of Independent Will:

No matter how much we try to be the perfect friend, family member, or co-worker, we cannot force the internal motivations of other people to change

It’s as effective as punching water.  

Rather than tirelessly seek deeper connection with those who are unable or unwilling to do the same, we can lovingly choose to set an intention that includes the value of reciprocity in relationships.

Reciprocity is not about “dumping” everyone in our lives who fall on the shallower side of the relationship pool completely.

It is simply means that we meet and enjoy them at their comfort level.

And in turn, when we meet people who would like to have deeper, more connected relationships with us, we can accept those meaningful levels with open arms.

The point is to allow whatever level of depth the other person is comfortable with set the tone.

(Unless we are the ones who want the shallower level. In which case, it is best if the other person respects our comfort zone to avoid the reverse scenario.)

Of course, we are welcome to invite others into deeper connection with us, if we like.

But if they show resistance to our efforts, we can lovingly give them the space they feel comfortable with and recognize that deeper connections can be found with other people in our lives.

Depending on where you are finding a shallow connection in your life, this may be heartbreaking to hear.

I should know.

Some of my relationships with people “closest” to me are actually the more shallow ones. But no matter how hard I used to try to connect more deeply, I only got hurt. 

Eventually I got so tired of “running around that mountain” trying to unsuccessfully please people in order to connect more deeply, that I decided to value peace more than the unreciprocated connection I craved.

This isn’t to say that I would not welcome a deeper connection with these people with open arms!

I’m just not forcing it.

At the moment, I’m still actively engaged in these people’s lives – only now I’m meeting them at their comfort level.

With peace and reciprocity as the foundation of my relationship intention for my friends and family, things flow much more smoothly. 

There may still be a twinge of sadness knowing that some connections are not as deep as we would like.

But that twinge is far outweighed by the welcome peace that we can feel by accepting reality and honoring the principle of Independent Will.

Plus, this opens us up to opportunities to connect more deeply with other people in our lives – now or in the future.


To Summarize


We cannot force people in our lives to want the same deep level of connection that we crave. Independent Will is a principle that cannot be ignored.

However, once we recognize the comfort level of those in our lives and agree to lovingly meet them at that level, we can find peace and the chance to invite new people into our lives who may seek the same deep connection that we desire.

Reciprocity and acceptance lead to peace.


May something wonderful happen to you today,


PS – Looking to go deeper and bring more intention, peace, and joy to your life?

Up until I took Jess’ Life with Intention Online class, I had been going about life in a way that dictated that I have to be productive, busy, and successful in order to be fulfilled or complete.

Her lessons totally opened up my mind to a new way to thinking. I’ve already begun to feel more at ease with how I conduct my daily life.

I highly recommend working with Jess and taking this class!



Lisa Maithas, | Washington D.C.


The March Life with Intention Online class is already 50% full! RSVP now.


This Post Has 0 Comments

  1. Jessica Thornton

    Thanking God for this – just that someone else understands entirely!!!!!!!

  2. gorgeous, Jess … what a great point to make. Meeting people at their comfort level frees up more time for you to have deeper connections with others – everyone is happy!

  3. Georgia

    This is so interesting to me, as it’s a major topic/issue in my life right now while I grieve. I have found that I have had to realign most of my relationships after losing a baby, because {in many cases} the people who I thought would be able to enter into my grief with me can’t, and the people I thought would not be able to have. What you have written about here is a tough thing to figure out {although much easier with your advice} even when life is “normal”. But throw a loss into it {especially one so uncomfortable for people as baby loss}, and it’s even more complicated. But your advice surely applies in that case, too… maybe even more so. One of the difficult things about the loss in a death {or any loss, I suppose} is that it comes with loss of friendships or ideals you had about friendships. But there are also gains, too… new relationships or new levels with old relationships.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Georgia. As you know, I am so sorry for your loss of your little one. I can only imagine the heightened experience that her passing has shifted some relationships in your life. Some in deeper levels and others less so.

      I have a friend that had two strokes at 29 and found the same thing happened in her friendships. A lot of close friends drifted and new ones appeared.

      And in any situation, you are totally right, these levels can shift within relationships to deepen or to become more shallow over time. There doesn’t have to be a stagnant level for all time. It can ebb and flow.

    2. geo637

      Run, don’t walk to the bookstore/library and get yourself a copy of “Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed (If you haven’t already read it) There is a story in there about a woman coming to terms with the loss of her baby, similar to what you are describing with respect to how the relationships in her life are challenging in wake of the significant loss. The advice that Dear Sugar (Cheryl) gives is uplifting, powerful, and inspirational. I hope it provides even the tiniest moment of glimmer knowing that you’re not alone in what you’ve experienced.

    1. I’m glad this spoke to you, Jillian! I hope it helps when you find yourself drawing at straws in any relationships that don’t go as deep as you’d like. : )

  4. chelsea gwynne

    This post was really well done! You’re so right!

  5. Romaine

    This is a lovely post and it makes valid points. There is, however, another side to it. Sometimes we cannot simply ” recognize the comfort level of those in our lives and agree to lovingly meet them at that level.” This works if the other person is genuinely interested, albeit less than we might be, and genuinely respectful. But in relationships that remain “unbalanced” (for lack of a better word), sometimes the party who is less invested is also the party looking to get the most out of the relationship. That is: Take, with minimal or no giving on their part. And these people are very good at zeroing in on folks who love to “do” for others.

    Relationships are definitely not quid pro quo. Healthy ones indeed ebb and flow but the reality is, some people are always, consciously or not, looking to reap maximum “rewards” without investing anything into a relationship/friendship.

    In life, one must make choices about where to invest one’s energy, time and resources. It’s not about getting back, but it is about both parties feeling comfortable and NOT used or abused. About being known and loved/liked for who they are and with both parties having something to bring to the table.

    Friendships change over time (friends of the road differ from friends of heart or the spirit) and real friendship is about growth, freedom and lack of demand or obligation. (If someone helps only because they feel obligated, that’s NOT friendship. And real friends never need to demand. Because real friendships don’t have “must dos” and lots of expectations. They have trust and a history.

    We never know where the “deepest” friendships will emerge. Being authentic about who you are and what you bring to each relationship will help us connect with those who may respond most deeply.

    As for families, this “let it be” approach is truly hard to implement at times. Just because someone is family doesn’t mean someone is likeable or even someone we want to be around. That’s the reality though few will say it.

    In those cases, one maintains a respectful distance if needed and lets it go.

    1. Very well put, Romaine! You make a lot of lovely points and I think what you are saying goes very well with the post as I’ve shared it.

      I love your point about friendships where there is imbalance, in those cases it may indeed be best to part ways or avoid giving more than feels comfortable. And of course, though I did not state it directly in the post, toxic relationships should be dealt with and not necessarily maintained – which is well beyond the scope that I laid out since this is assuming that you are indeed looking for a deeper relationship with someone who is presumably not toxic.

      I also hope it was clear that I am not promoting a quid pro quo in relationships either. Ebb and flow will happen like you suggest. However, longstanding imbalance is not ideal and reciprocity can help right that in a way that does not leave us feeling ‘used’ in the long run.

      I also agree that friends don’t have must dos, and I hope that it was not implied in any way that there should be a must do from this post. Again, I agree with you here, too. : )

      As I mentioned in the post, I know firsthand the difficulty that it can take in a family to want more than what is possible given many different factors. And as I mentioned it is not always easy to implement. However, to protect oneself in a relationship such as this reciprocity and learning to seek peace above trying to please and change someone is indeed the path that ultimately leads to the most good. Regardless of whether it feels ‘easy’ at all times.

      Thanks for sharing. I hope that I’ve helped shed light on the parallels and commonalties in our viewpoints. : )

  6. Patricia van Essche

    The waves are a constant reminder to me, one can be gentle and the next can come without warning and knock us down. I have your wonderful poster which reads -“Just keep going” and it inspires me to get up, to give with an open heart and not look back. As always, I appreciate your wisdom and ability to share in words such great advice.
    Thank-you. My heart goes out to those that have to learn the hard way, with loss of a loved one or to watch someone lose life to an illness. My motto is to be kind as we never know the battle the other person is fighting.

    1. Aw, that is so great to hear, Patricia!! I love the JKG poster, too! I also love your wonderful motto, thank you for sharing.

  7. FW

    My wife referred this article to me, so I checked it out… and I’m really glad that I did!

    I’ve been having trouble interacting with my co-workers.

    Each day, it grates on me when many of my co-workers repeatedly ask ‘hey, how are you,’ and then continue walking, passing me without pausing for an answer.

    And to have people ‘chat’ with me in a way that feels more like a lecture than a friendly interaction really gets on my nerves, too.

    I’ve even had co-workers joke with me that I’m a really good listener, with the subtext being ‘because you make a great audience as someone goes on and on about something that there’s no real reason that you would care about.’

    It feels like my co-workers don’t care, that they don’t want to get to know me. And maybe they don’t. Either way, the relationships I have with them certainly aren’t the deep friendships I had assumed that I would have with them when I started the job.

    I used to have this image of me fitting in with them and developing these deep friendships over the years. In reality, I feel almost just as much like an outsider now as I did four years ago when I took the job.

    And that’s okay. It’s not a sad thing. They are co-workers. Not buddies. Not brothers-in-arms. Co-workers.

    And that’s okay.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, FW! Well said.

      I have a feeling that a lot of people can relate to what you are saying about the co-worker ‘coolness’ factor.

      I’m happy to hear you have a good perspective on the situation. : )

  8. lnwoke

    Jess, this was such a TIMELY post for me! Thank you for being transparent and sharing from your heart. The piece you say about its heartbreaking knowing you may not be able to connect with a friend on a deeper level is real. I’m finding that there is much personal growth to be had in the process of living through the hurt and moving forward. Thanks again for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing, Hun! I am so happy to hear this piece spoke to you, too. I know, it can be so heartbreaking to find that someone is unable/willing to go deeper. But like you said, there is a lot of personal growth to learn in the process.

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