Finding Personal Connection in a Disconnected World
How we connect to one another helps define our humanity.
Posted Apr 02, 2018
After over a decade of working with children, adolescents and their families, one truth has risen to the surface. My work is the most fruitful and meaningful when I make a connection with those who I am working with. That connection, a thread between me and another, forms when what I hear resonates with something inside of me. It is a starting point for validation and understanding of another’s experience, in other words, empathy.
We are wired for interpersonal interactions. Our brains were designed for it and our bodies react physically when we experience a lack of interaction with other people. Our brains are filled with 100 billion cells some of which exist purely to connect us with each other. Tiny mimickers, mirror neurons, fire both when a person acts and when a person observes the actions of another. Observing the action of another person can trigger an urge to engage in a similar behavior. How often have you started yawning when a person around you yawns? We are designed to interact with other humans, and in fact, our very well being depends on it.
We are living in a time of greater digital connectivity. Most people have hundreds, sometimes thousands of friends, connections or contacts on sites social media sites, yet reports of loneliness have steadily risen. The United Kingdom sees the plaque of loneliness as a crisis recently appointing a Minister of Loneliness. In a 2017 report by the Jo Cox Commission Loneliness, over 9 million British adults reported that they are "often or always lonely". In a world with a growing population and digital relationships, we seem to be growing more disconnected.
In this blog, together we will explore 3 area of interpersonal connection:
1. We will consider what it looks like to connect with our interpersonal selves as well as the world around us. Our relationships become more meaningful when we have a greater awareness of our own internal worlds. When we connect with those around us, we can see them as humans with their own unique stories and experiences
2. We will try to understand what happens when those connections are missing or derailed. Connections to others allow us to accept that with nearly 8 billion people in the world, we are likely to encounter people with different cultures, values and beliefs every day. Unfortunately, when we disconnect from those who are different, we risk dehumanizing them in the process. When we experience people only by their differences we might also see them as an “other” who is less than us. Consider how the 2016 presidential election triggered increased divisiveness in our country as we struggled to understand how other people could hold values and opinions so different from our own.
3. We will explore how to experience a greater connection within ourselves and to those in the world around us. Most importantly, we will look for ways where even when we feel so different from the person sitting at the table across from us, we can find a commonality that will allow us to see that person as an individual of value with a unique narrative of his or her own. Consider how hearing the personal stories of the victims of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL have mobilized our nation into action. Personal narratives are powerful tools for creating connections between people.
Interpersonal connections are threads that enrich the relationships we form with one another. Those connections evolve through how we understand and accept one another as humans given our vast arrays of differing opinions, beliefs and ideas.
Something to consider
We connect when we listen to one another with intention and focus. We connect when we respect and receive one another’s stories. We connect when we sift through our differences to find that thread of understanding that links us.